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Analysis: Recovery timetable, concerns following Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic’s wrist surgery

SHARE Analysis: Recovery timetable, concerns following Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic’s wrist surgery

Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) protests a call in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Bojan Bogdanovic underwent successful surgery on his right wrist on Tuesday, the Utah Jazz announced. He is not expected to return should the 2019-20 season resume.

The Utah Jazz forward had been playing through discomfort after rupturing the scapholunate ligament in his wrist early this season.

Team doctors monitored the situation during the season, but Bogdanovic was still experiencing discomfort after NBA play was suspended in March. Through consultations with specialists, the decision for surgery was made.

“Bogdanovic will begin his rehabilitation at the appropriate time and will remain out indefinitely. Further updates will be provided as needed,” read a statement released by the Jazz.

The scapholunate ligament is the main ligament in the wrist that couples extension and the side-to-side motion of the wrist.

“It’s probably the most important ligament in the wrist and the most commonly injured one,” said Dr. David Clark Hay, the orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, who has long worked with professional athletes and is the hand surgery consultant to the Anaheim Ducks.

Bogdanovic will be looking at a prolonged recovery following surgery. Some patients, Hay said, will be back to doing some type of conditioning and workouts around the two- or three-month mark, but for full recovery a patient is looking at a four- to six-month window, depending on the surgical technique used.

“The hope is that they can restore full motion, but the common concern is lacking the full flexion. It tends to leave patients with some residual stiffness, particularly when you follow through on a shot.” — Dr. David Clark Hay, on injuries involving the scapholunate ligament

Though functional recovery is generally achieved following surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament, Hay said 100% function is not guaranteed and there are concerns about lingering tightness and stiffness, especially for a player who, like Bogdanovic, is primarily a shooter and is right-handed.

The procedure was performed at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michelle Carlson.

“The hope is that they can restore full motion, but the common concern is lacking the full flexion,” Hay said. “It tends to leave patients with some residual stiffness, particularly when you follow through on a shot. ... You’d be less concerned with the impact on a post player. But, with an outside shooter there’s that snap at the end of the shot.”

Following Monday’s news that Bogdanovic would be having season-ending surgery, many were left wondering why he had waited so long to have surgery, since the injury occurred before the start of the 2020 calendar year.

One factor for holding off was that surgeries like this one, which is not an emergency, was not a priority during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, especially when considering the surgery was going to be performed in New York, which has been hit hard by COVID-19.

Additionally, the length of the NBA hiatus was unknown and the possibility of coming back and playing playoff basketball was always on the horizon. Hay calls Bogdanovic’s situation a “common sequence,” particularly if Bogdanovic had been trying to make it to the playoffs before having surgery.

When there is a complete rupture of the ligament, usually that means surgical reconstruction. But there are instances when surgery is sometimes not done if there is an incomplete injury to the ligament or if a patient is functioning with an injury to the ligament.

“He could have had a partial rupture and he was doing OK and then he had another incident and it became a problem,” Hay said. “Sometimes you’ll see athletes tear the ligament itself but the surrounding tissue in the wrist in a strong athletic guy will hold the wrist in good position and they’ll be playing, but with time it will stretch out and become more and more symptomatic.”

Bogdanovic had been seen multiple times throughout the season holding his wrist or flexing it after a fall or shot. Though there was discomfort and likely pain, it’s totally possible his injury was not a complete rupture of the ligament and foregoing immediate surgery was a normal course of action, especially if he was comfortable playing and had most of his function.

Considering that since Dec. 1, 2019, Bogdanovic has been shooting 39.3% from deep and averaging 19.5 points per game, it’s pretty safe to say that even if there was discomfort, there was still function and ability.

If the NBA is able to resume the 2019-20 season, the Jazz will have a tough time managing the playoffs without Bogdanovic’s services.

Not only was the team only recently looking like it had found a rotational system that was clicking, but Bogdanovic is a huge offensive threat that will be sorely missed. More scoring responsibility will be on the shoulders of not only stars like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, but also Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles and others.

Because Ingles will likely fill the starting unit gap in Bogdanovic’s absence, bench production from Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang will become more vital than ever, difficult in a playoff setting, especially for a young player like Niang, who doesn’t have the ideal level of postseason basketball experience.

Following Tuesday’s surgery, a four- to six-month recovery timetable would mean that Bogdanovic would be back to playing by November, ahead of the December start date the NBA is eyeing for the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

Still unknown is how Bogdanovic’s recovery will go, whether his shot will be impacted by this injury and surgery, and what the immediate future of the NBA looks like.