Sometime this week, Amar'e Stoudemire will undergo a procedure to clean out debris in his right knee.
The surgery, in and of itself, is relatively minor. Recovery time is approximately six weeks.
But it's the latest in a long line of knee surgeries for the 30-year-old Stoudemire. And that is a troubling sign.
He had microfracture surgery on his left knee and an athroscopic procedure on his right knee in 2005. More recently, Stoudemire underwent a debridement on his left knee in November.
Medical experts see the sum total of these procedures as a potentially discouraging sign for Stoudemire, who has two years and $45 million remaining on his $100 million deal with the New York Knicks.
"It’s hard to make any specific projection as to how this will impact his knee going forward," says Stephania Bell, a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist and injury expert for ESPN. "Less encouraging is the more global picture of the injury challenges he has had recently -- disc problems in his back, both knees requiring surgery in the same year, including the one in which he had prior microfracture -- which suggests that perhaps the wear and tear of his sport and his years of playing are catching up to him."
It is unclear exactly what will be cleaned out of Stoudemire’s knee during the debridement.
He felt soreness on Friday and had an MRI on Saturday, when it was revealed that surgery was necessary.
The debridement may be to clean out loose bone fragments or cartilage in Stoudemire’s knee. It also could be needed to remedy an arthritic condition.
One orthopedic surgeon with no first-hand knowledge of Stoudemire’s condition said the procedure could be a stop-gap measure to temporarily relieve pain in the knee.
"It’s probably not going to make the knee perfect, but it’s trying to manage the pain to get him back on the court," said the surgeon, who did not wish to be named because he had not directly treated Stoudemire. "It’s buying time. It’s not like an ACL surgery, where you’re curing the problem. You’re just trying to eliminate symptoms, improve symptoms, so he can get back and play in the NBA."
Given the condition of Stoudemire’s knees, it’s fair to wonder if he can be the same player when he returns to the floor. This latest ailment could be one more step in an inevitable decline for the 11-year veteran.
"Your knee isn’t the same after surgery," the surgeon notes.
It's worth noting that Stoudemire is an extremely hard worker and goes to great lengths to maintain peak physical condition. So he will do everything within his power to return to the floor in six weeks.
But what happens when he's ready to return?
The Knicks will be in the middle of a playoff series and, if his most recent comeback is any indication, it could take Stoudemire several games to get his rhythm back. Will he help or hurt the Knicks if he's trying to gain his rhythm in games that the team can't afford to lose?
When discussing Stoudemire’s future, it’s always worth noting that his contract with the Knicks -- a five-year, $100 million pact -- is uninsured because of his history of knee issues so he is virtually untradeable.
So, for the Knicks, the best-case scenario is that Stoudemire returns to the form that he showed in recent weeks and remains healthy in the final two years of his deal.
But, given his long history of ailments, the only thing we know for sure is that there's no sure thing when it comes to Amar'e and his knees.
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