Mike Conley’s injury: What is a popliteus muscle and what does recovery look like? A medical expert explains
Jazz point guard will miss Monday night’s game against the Clippers and will be evaluated daily
Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley is currently sidelined with a knee injury.
More specifically, following an MRI that cleared him of any significant structural damage, Conley was diagnosed with a left leg popliteus strain.
You might be wondering, what is a popliteus? And, what more should we know about this injury? I wondered the same things.
So, to better understand the situation I spoke with Dr. Daniel Kharrazi, a sports medicine and orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles and a former orthopedic consultant to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Below is our conversation, which has been lightly edited for clarity:
Deseret News: Could you start by just explaining what and where the popliteus is?
Daniel Kharrazi: The popliteus muscle and tendon is basically a muscle that has a tendinous portion that attaches to the bone, at the posterolateral corner of the knee. So, if you divide your knee into an inner and outer half, the inner half being the medial half and the outer half being the lateral, the popliteus is the muscle that’s in the posterolateral corner — so, the outer half and towards the back of the knee.”
DN: Is this just another way of saying a knee strain? Or, does the popliteus strain refer to something more specific?
DK: This is more specific because knee strains and sprains usually imply either the ACL, MCL, meniscal tears and other things like that. But this specifically refers to the muscle tendon complex known as the popliteus muscle tendon complex that basically gives some stability to the posterolateral corner of the knee.
DN: What causes a strain of the popliteus muscle and what’s the recovery generally like?
DK: Hyperextension, some sort of torque on the knee can cause it. Luckily for the player, this is one that generally is easier to heal than some of the other ones and it’s usually anywhere from a two- to four-week recovery, depending on the level of the strain.
DN: Having been told that the player in question, Conley, could potentially return within a two-week period, does that imply that the injury is mild?
DK: That’s usually the case with a grade one or two, which is the lower sort of strain. It’s much more mild, and those can heal within a couple of weeks.
DN: Does a strain of the popliteus imply that any of the surrounding tissue is weak? What are the concerns that could surround this type of injury?
DK: Well, this is not a very common injury, but it can happen in isolation. Sometimes it is also combined with meniscus injuries or capsular sprains of the knee but it sounds like they got an MRI that shows that there was no involvement of the other structures — the lateral meniscus, the lateral collateral ligament, the surrounding popliteal fibula, and other ligaments that give stability to the knee. That’s the biggest take-home point, that this was isolated.
It’s not generally an issue that gives cause for future concern. Like, an ACL injury can become an issue if it’s not surgically managed. Usually, once the popliteus heals, it heals and is stable in future play.
DN: What does treatment and recovery look like for this type of injury?
DK: Generally, it’s resting to allow the muscle fibers that have been strained to heal. Sometimes icing and conservative measures like anti-inflammatories, and even sometimes a knee support like a knee brace for short term can help. But generally, it’s something that’s fairly benign and the patient recovers from fully.