To say that this past week’s rapid-fire sequence of league shutdowns and suspensions was sudden is an understatement.
However, amid the shock of a sportless world, there is a benefit for the athletes themselves: rehab time.
And, for athletes, the recovery time could be enough to propel them or their team to a championship. In this article, we’ll look at a few high-profile stars who could benefit from a break in the season.
Ben Simmons: Nerve impingement in back (1-2 weeks)
Simmons missed his first season with a broken foot. Since then, he’s been healthy, playing 81 and 79 games the past two seasons.
On Feb. 22, though, the lanky point guard aggravated a back injury and left after logging just five minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the days following the game, the 76ers said Simmons was going in for an MRI and could be out for one to two weeks. The injury: A nerve impingement in his back.
The NBA suspended its season before Simmons came back, giving the star an extended recovery time. His return is crucial, as the 76ers went 4-5 without Simmons (including the Bucks game). In that time, the Indiana Pacers passed the 76ers to get the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoff battle.
With an indefinite suspension looming over the league, Simmons stands to benefit, as he’ll have what looks like at least six weeks to recover from his nerve impingement.
In an interview with Philly Voice, board-certified physical therapist Roxanne Smith said that Simmons’ injury involves inflammation and takes at least two weeks to heal enough for the pain to ease and to start therapy.
However, there’s no set timeline for an injury like this because it involves a variety of factors in a delicate part of the body.
“A lot of it right now is just a waiting game and time will tell, but we have to get through this inflammatory phase and make sure he calms down what’s irritating the nerve,” Smith said. “It’s always hard to know what is going to happen when you have something that’s so inflamed how it’s going to respond. So, a lot of it is time; a lot of it is just seeing what happens with how the symptoms progress.”
Her assessment indicates that the one- to two-week recovery time the 76ers claimed may not have been a lock.
Therefore, the extra time Simmons has to recover will lead to near-full recovery and will likely reduce the chances of him re-aggravating the injury.
A healthy Simmons means the 76ers are in a far better position to move up into a top-4 seed in the playoffs, as they’re just two games behind the Miami Heat. Their title odds had fallen all the way to +2700 at FanDuel Sportsbook before the season was suspended. With Simmons back, expect that number to drop when markets reopen.
Tiger Woods: Persistent back issues (load management)
A week before The Players Championship (TPC), Woods announced he would not play because of his back issues.
Woods taking a break from a few tournaments isn’t a big surprise. He’s intent on load management so that he can be as healthy as possible for big tournaments and majors.
Normally, we’d see Woods resting (possibly) between TPC and The Masters. However, this past week, the PGA Tour announced it would suspend play through the PGA Championship, which takes place from May 14-17 at San Francisco’s TPC Harding Park. That span includes The Masters, where Woods won last year. Both major events are expected to be rescheduled for later this year.
With all that time to rest, Woods increases his chance at playing (relatively) healthy and winning his 16th major. He is listed at +1400 to win The Masters and +1200 to win the PGA Championship at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Nathan MacKinnon: Lower-body injury (1-2 weeks)
Nathan MacKinnon, the star center for the Colorado Avalanche, fell to the ice in pain during the team’s 3-1 loss to the Kings on March 9. The Avalanche announced two days after the game that MacKinnon suffered a “lower-body injury.”
The NHL is notoriously esoteric with its injury designations, so there’s no way to tell exactly what happened to the MacKinnon, the league’s fifth-leading scorer.
However, just over one week after the Avs broke the bad news to its fans, the NHL announced it would suspend the season indefinitely.
Therefore, MacKinnon has more than enough time to remedy the issue he’s dealing with, said Dr. Alex Tauberg, a board-certified sports chiropractor based in Pittsburgh.
“While no one is thrilled with the work stoppage, this may be a blessing in disguise for MacKinnon as he won’t have to rush back to the ice. Instead, he can focus on rehabbing the area,” Tauberg said. “Having more time to rehab the area should decrease the likelihood of it becoming injured again and should help him get close to 100% for the playoffs if they are going to happen.”
The Avalanche are two points back of the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division of the Western Conference. If the playoffs were to happen today, the Avs would play the Stars in the first round. The Stars have played the Avs four times this season and won all four games.
At +1000 (10-to-1), Colorado was still among the betting favorites to win the Cup when the league shut down.
Justin Verlander: Groin surgery (six weeks)
The Houston Astros righty, Justin Verlander, left his spring training start on March 8 because of right groin discomfort. Verlander was dealing with a back issue, too.
Earlier this week, he underwent surgery to repair the injury. Unlike the other injuries on our list, Verlander’s came before the season. The Astros stand to gain the most from the season suspension simply because they should have Verlander healthy within the first few weeks of the season.
And, assuming he doesn’t reinjure his groin, he should be healthy if the Astros make a playoff run this fall. They are currently listed at +550 to win the World Series.