Guest Post by:

Stephanie Davey, ATC
Certified Athletic Trainer
MUSC Sports Medicine

Kansas Jayhawk fans held their breath on March 3 as star forward Perry Ellis was clutching his right knee after a teammate fell into him.  He was assisted off the court and taken to the locker room.  He returned back to the bench at the end of the game wearing the team warm ups.  It was reported at that time that Ellis had a MRI that showed a sprained knee, but otherwise was negative.  Ellis, a first team All Big 12 power forward, averages 13.8 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game.  He is considered Kansas’s best player and the key to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

A sprained knee is a diagnosis that many teams release to the media.  It can encompass multiple different injuries of different ligaments.  The knee has 4 main ligaments that provide stability to the joint.  The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) cross through the middle of the knee from the femur to the tibia. The ACL prevents anterior translation and medial rotation of the tibia.  The PCL prevents posterior translation of the tibia from the femur.  The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) provide side to side stability of the knee.  The MCL goes from the inside of the femur to the inside of the tibia and prevents a valgus stress.  The LCL attaches from the outside of the femur to the head of the fibula and prevents varus stress.  Ligament strains are typically graded from 1 to 3.  Grade 1 is generally mild tearing of the ligament.  The joint is usually still stable.  Grade 2 is more severe tearing of the ligament with joint instability and moderate to severe pain.  Grade 3 is typically a complete rupture of the ligament.

In Ellis’s case, it was later reported that he sprained his MCL.  When his teammate fell into the outside of his right knee, he forcibly pushed his knee to the inside creating a valgus stress.  Coach Bill Self said that Kansas doctors were optimistic that Ellis’s injury was not severe and that he would be able to return to play for the post season.  Treatment for a MCL sprain varies depending on the severity of the injury, but typically does not include surgery.   Managing pain and swelling should begin immediately, followed later by range of motion and strengthening exercises.  An athlete should have full range of motion and strength prior to return to play.  He or she should also be comfortable with the mobility necessary for the sport.  A brace with medial support is usually used for additional protection.  While an athlete may be fully cleared to play, it is difficult to say how effective he will be once he returns to play and what the effect of the injury will have on his skills.

Fortunately, Ellis was able to return to play in the semi finals of the Big 12 Tournament.  He missed two games.  Kansas went 1-1 in those two games.  He played in the final two games of the Big 12 tournament reporting that he felt good after the games.  Kansas will need a healthy and effective Perry Ellis to make a deep March Madness run and no doubt the sports medicine staff will be working overtime to make sure that happens.