Wednesday, March 12, 2014

KU coach Self outlines timeline of Joel Embiid’s back injury

Kansas center Joel Embiid holds his lower back after injuring it during the second half of the Jayhawks' Feb. 8, 2014 game against West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid holds his lower back after injuring it during the second half of the Jayhawks' Feb. 8, 2014 game against West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.


Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self took the time Tuesday night in a telephone conversation to clarify any confusion as to when freshman center Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture of the lower back and how he and his family were informed.

Self shared a “medically documented” time line of events. All quotes in this story are Self’s, unless otherwise attributed:

Embiid “tweaked his back” late in the West Virginia game on Feb. 8. Two days later, Embiid played at Kansas State and it “was obvious that (because of his back), he was not himself. We got an MRI on Jo immediately after the game, and the MRI did not show any stress fracture.”

Self rested Embiid for the TCU game over the center’s objections. Embiid returned to the court at Texas Tech, eight days after he had last played.

“We rested him for one week and he became symptom-free and was able to go back to being 100 percent on the basketball court,” Self said.

Embiid produced 18 points and eight rebounds in a 64-63 victory in Lubbock and then averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds in games against Texas and Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse.

“On March 1, at Oklahoma State, Jo late in the game hurt his back, and at the conclusion of the game, after being diagnosed in the locker room by our medical staff, I asked the staff how Jo was doing,” Self said. “They told me, ‘Bill, we think he has the symptoms of someone who has a stress fracture.’ That was approximately 11 p.m. We got home at 5 a.m. and at 7:30 March 2, Sunday, he was receiving an MRI. The MRI was read by an independent radiologist that contacted our staff and confirmed at approximately 12 noon that he had developed a stress fracture.”

At 1 p.m. that day, Self said he, KU’s medical staff, and Embiid met to discuss the results.

That evening, Self said, he and the medical staff visited with a spine specialist who has worked, “with NBA teams and is very familiar with this exact injury. He confirmed the diagnosis and worked with our doctors jointly on a rehab program.”

On March 3, Self said, Embiid’s family was contacted in Cameroon and was told, “that Jo had developed a stress fracture and that it was confirmed by multiple doctors, but if they wanted to in any way, shape or form get a second opinion, we would do that with any student-athlete.”

The family later informed KU that they wanted a specific spine specialist in Los Angeles to look at Embiid. The doctor fit the 7-footer into his schedule this past Monday.

“He (the LA specialist) confirmed what we already knew, that he had a stress fracture in his lower back,” Self said. “The diagnosis and treatment plan has never changed. And all physicians are in agreement that Jo should not play until his symptoms allow him to play.”

KU delayed the announcement on the stress fracture until after Embiid saw the Los Angeles spine specialist.

When will his symptoms allow him to play?

“The time frame on that is different with all individuals, but certainly Jo is working hard to put himself in a position where he can get back on the court,” Self said.

UConn center Emeka Okafor missed two Big East tournament games with a stress fracture of the lower back in 2004 and went on to lead the Huskies to the national championship that season, scoring 24 points in the title game. Okafor took a path similar to Embiid’s in that he received feedback from spine specialists in two different cities and, like Embiid, was projected to be drafted in the first few picks. Also, initial MRI tests taken after Okafor began to experience back pain did not show any stress fracture.

The second specialist Okafor saw was Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas, according to a March 2004 story published by

Dr. Jeff Anderson, identified in the story as UConn’s director of sports medicine, told “Dr. Dossett told Emeka that he finds this problem in hundreds of elite athletes and they’re still playing. What happens is the stress fracture is on a tiny little part of the bone and then the extra motion triggers muscle around it to go into pain and then a spasm and that’s when you see Emeka’s face wince. He told him it’s not a long-term problem. This is not a catastrophic finding.”

Okafor was selected second, behind Dwight Howard, in the 2004 NBA draft. He has averaged 12.3 points and 9.9 rebounds in nine NBA seasons, though he has sat out this year, his tenth, while recovering from a neck injury.

If Okafor could bounce back so quickly, might Embiid be prepared to play for KU as early as March 28, should the team advance to the Sweet 16? Self reiterated that everybody’s different.

“How quickly and if Jo comes back will be determined by his symptoms and how well he does in rehab,” Self said. “I am not optimistic that there is a definite time frame, but I’m very optimistic that it’s possible that if our team is successful enough, he could play again this year.”

Self won’t be the one to give the green light, but showed before the TCU game Embiid missed he could flash the red light against his player’s wishes.

“That decision will be 100 percent Joel’s, based on his health, based on his symptoms and based on the doctors agreeing with that (if Embiid says he is symptom-free and wants to play),” Self said. “In no way will any of our players, including Joel, be put at risk. If anything, we are taking a conservative approach, as evidenced by resting him the first time that he experienced any discomfort at all.”


Scott MacWilliams 8 years, 9 months ago

What about getting body-slammed at Texas? That must have had some kind of negative effect, certainly stressing the back to a degree. Did Jojo have no back complaints after that game?

Overall, this article sounds a bit like PR damage control to me, from the tone of it. I just want Joel to have no long-term back problems, but I'm sure they are doing everything they can to get him right again.

On to the tournament, and Rock Chalk!!

Eric Dawson 8 years, 9 months ago

"Don't hit me with them negative waves so early in the morning."

Let's see, after Texas, KU hosted OU. JoJo hit 60% of his FGs, scored 12 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks -- I would say he was feeling okay for that game, so no to your question, Moriarty.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

I thought it was a fair question and wasn't a negative comment - quit hitting me w/your control issues so early this morning.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 8 months ago

He's talking about the game in Austin when Ridley basically body slammed Embiid, not the game Lawrence.

Ben Schwartz 8 years, 8 months ago

As Aaron mentioned, the body-slam game was in Austin which was followed by the game in Waco vs Balyor three days later. Embiid had 5 points and 7 boards in 17 min, so I certainly don't think it is a stretch of the imagination to assume he was affected by the Austin game.

Mike Barnhart 8 years, 8 months ago

Thanks to Kansas City sports radio host, Kevin Kietzman, it is damage control. Kietz spent the better part of four hours yesterday accusing Coach Self of bullying Embiid into playing hurt and trying to cover it up to the media.

I love 810 WHB and their "Between the Lines" show but not as much as they love a good conspiracy theory!

Titus Canby 8 years, 8 months ago

I believe this is the same radio talk show guy who badgered Keegan unrelentingly on air trying to say that Jim Harbaugh upstaged Senior Night. The guy was searching for a controversy. Thanks to Keegan for not taking the bait.

Tom Longhofer 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm not a big fan Keegan's writing, but glad to see he came through for KU in this situation. Thanks for pointing it out.

William Weissbeck 8 years, 8 months ago

And we couldn't even get Harbaugh to change his clothes. Tony Romo and the other Dallas guys at Duke's Senior Night looked like they were in town for a golf convention wearing their Duke shirts.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 8 months ago

Kietzman is a KSU guy, 'nuff said about his stance on anything KU.

Jarret Heaston 8 years, 8 months ago

Why do we care what an envious K-Stater thinks? He hates KU and will always do his best to paint them in a negative light.

Not sure why he's in KC

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

I had the exact injury in my late teens and the answer is "no". There were some days were I could do every stressful physical workout under the sun and be 100% pain free and then a week later the smallest thing would trigger a wave of spasms.

If you get to the point where you have given the fracture some time to begin the healing process (at this point it's been about two weeks since the fracture) then it is simply a game of pain management. If Embiid feels that he can go through practice without experiencing any ill effects then he should give it a go. It could be a month after that before he has any more spasms or it could be five minutes. If he wants to try then he should be allowed to try. There is zero risk of making the fracture worse.

Tyler Fox 8 years, 8 months ago

As someone with some brief experience in Sports Medicine, I would argue that it isn't damage control. College and pro medical staffs deal with things like this all the time and are very good at keeping it private. When a second opinion is sought at an outside source and the results of that opinion are made public, it usually just confirms what the team staff already knew. Conspiracy theorists make their living in situations like this.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

Benz even though there is no further risk of injury, having had something similar did you adjust normal behavior to not aggravate the injury? Don't turn this way, do bend this far? So it is a matter of pain management, which could be treating the injury as well as the patients pain thresholds? Otherwise his play could be effected once pain increases.

Kris Nelson 8 years, 9 months ago

If 1 idiot sports talk radio host hadn't dreamt up a load of BS, Coach Self wouldn't need to rehash all this and waste time doing so.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

I am thrilled that Self shared this information to put to rest any concerns. This wasn't done for some local yokel sports radio fool. It was done to show the ncaa selection committee that the information they will receive from Self on Embiid's injury is open, honest and forthright. They stated yesterday that they would "be in contact" with Kansas about Embiid's status, meaning that it could affect their seeding.

By making this public, Self gives everyone involved an opportunity to dispute the facts included. If what this says isn't true, Embiid's family or the doctor invlived would have the opportunity to dispute the facts involved. If it makes it through today's news cycle without being disputed then the selection committee will take it as a factual transcript of the events and status of Embiid.

It is RIDICULOUS to lower their seed purely on an injury. Kansas earned a #2 seed for their work on the floor and they should get it. Losing Embiid is punishment enough; don't puniosh them a 2nd time by also making them play tougher teams.

I do not see anything in this report that leads me to believe that Embiid couldn't be back for the 2nd weekend of the tourney. Knowing that he is getting around the clock treatment every day assures me that he will be able to get those back spasms calmed down by the Sweet Sixteen. That's still another two full weeks from now and would put him a solid month out from the original fracture.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

I 100% agree. If we do not do well in the B12 though, our losing has to start effecting seeding. I could see a 3 seed, even taking into account Embiid's injury.

Ted Adams 8 years, 9 months ago

More often than not I like listening to that sports talk station, but today really put me on edge and finally downright peeved me off.

This whole thing was a pathetic horrendous exaggeration. The fact that everyone there jumped on the bandwagon with the idea without at least ONE saying "wait a minute, I don't think that's what's going on here" hacks me to no end. Shame on them for being sheep!

If a coach and/or athletic department withheld injury/health info from an athlete and his/her parents, there is no way they would still have a job once it was discovered. With everyone and their sister thinking they want to be the "source" on social media, there is absolutely no way something like that would stay under the rug.

Kevin Jenkins 8 years, 9 months ago

I thought Self just felt he needed to let everyone know what's going on. Must be a million people asking a million questions. It's amazing what stories are coming out, everyone's an expert on backs now and even sports writers are starting to sound like tabloid writers. All Self and his staff have done is show they are concerned with Embiid's health. Let him rest his back and if he can play later fantastic. His fellow players should not count on his return and concentrate on winning. We all hope he will return sometime soon and 100%. Go KU!!

Dirk Medema 8 years, 9 months ago

Should be a good chance for all the other players to grow some more, and maybe even Coach Self. There is still plenty of talent to take care of business.

Michael Johnson 8 years, 9 months ago

I too, listen to that talk show and turned it off after about 20 minutes. I couldn't help but feel something was missing. Something wasn't quite right. It soon hit me... one of the head bananas wasn't there. Jack Harry was not involved. Never fear. Jack must've been listening. His jack smack was pretty much an exact copy of yesterday's show. Too bad these bozos can't get an original story.

Len Shaffer 8 years, 9 months ago

Could someone enlighten those of us who didn't hear it as to what radio show you're talking about, and what exactly they said? I'm curious what kind of cr*p is being put out on the airwaves.

Kent Richardson 8 years, 8 months ago

Hope you feel better Jo. I wouldn't ascribe to anything other than the medical facts that have been stated.
You can tell by the tone of the article that all the responsible parties are being careful and are media savvy. JoJo, his family and the KU basketball staff can tell us that his diagnosis and prognosis is private medical information, which it is. We will see conspiracy and shadows if we want but that is a choice we make. Radio shows, professionals online and print media all have their jobs to do which is to sell newspapers and advertising slots and space. We all have our own areas of interest and mine will be to see how the specific players on our team react and how Coach Self and the opposition try to minimize or take advantage our loss. We will have to play our very best every single game. We can have two more games or nine more. An already cloudy forecast has become more so. Balls to the wall guys, you can make yourselves and us proud by the quality of your desire and effort,

Martin Rosenblum 8 years, 8 months ago

I'm more of the opinion that there is a lot of disclosure being made for the NBA's scrutiny of Embiid's health. His stock could rise or fall depending on how this happened and how it plays out in the next few weeks. A lot of time was taken to compare him to other NBA big men who also experienced back issues of similar natures, If the NBA had to do their own investigation/research, it could appear that there may be a more serious condition being un-disclosed and therefore conclusions could be drawn that KU was being uncooperative or attempting to mask a condition that could affect Embiid's professional future. My theory is not meant to put a negative spin on the "timeline", rather to suggest a possible reason behind it.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

I wasn't going to mention it but since you did, I feel the same as you in regard to the NBA. I don't think KU was hiding anything as HCBS has always looked after his players first and foremost.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

I think it was made to serve both the NCAA selection committee and the NBA folks if Embiid does chose to go pro (which I don't think he will).

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

The comparison to Emeka Okafor likley wasn't part of Self's statements on the injury but was added to the story by the writer.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

I've said this before and I understand the NBA being cautious but JoJo is not Greg Oden. Oden has been plagued with microfractures in his knees, a broken patella, foot injuries and his first three years all ended with injuries. Greg Oden has played in 98 games since being the number one overall pick in 2007.

I read your comments about your personal experience with this type of injury and think you have a pretty good take on it. Hopefully rest and physical therapy will be enough and he can avoid surgery.

No one wants to risk using a #1 draft pick to get an injury prone athlete but I don't believe that's the case here. When you consider his youth and size adjusting to what to him is basically a new sport, there is bound to be some physical adjustments that may adversely affect him such as what is now happening.

I think JoJo should take the opportunity to play another year at Kansas to build up his body and skills and most of all, prove his distractors wrong.

Joe Baker 8 years, 8 months ago

"If anything, we are taking a conservative approach..."

Being conservative has it's advantages. It will all work out. KU is fine. I was hoping to rest him opposite of what they did. What if they followed this plan of treatment, diagnosis, and sought specialists the first time around. Why did they wait and let him play again? Many of us voiced our concern to REST him and do whatever was necessary for the bigger picture. We lost eight days toward his ultimate recovery and now don't have him in the B12 tourney and the first wknd of the NCAAs. We probably didn't need him against OU nor did we need him against TT. He could've been back for the WVU game too at this rate. I guess we could play shoulda, woulda, coulda all day.

My fear is we play a thuggish team at some point after Embiid returns and he is now a target. I still think Nash's "block" in Stillwater was no accident. I think Nash did exactly what they needed to do in order to win. The knee block threw Embiid off during his drive and Nash couldn't handle him. Nash is a headcase and osu are bunch of thugs, lead by pg thug too. So, I will always view osu in a negative light. They were desperate and got what they wanted. UT falls in this category, but at least Barnes is a bit more classy than Ford. I think some coaches push their teams to be physical or tough and an emotionally charged young player takes that differently. Oh well, all water under the proverbial bridge. Moving is what it is. Let's focus now on the B12 tourney and see how this team responds under these circumstances.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 8 months ago

Well said. I love the fact that Travis Ford gets to wear his team's underachieving record around his neck. Only a matter of time before T.BoonePickens borrows a line from Trump ("you're fired.")

I'm not sure I'd call Nash a "thug", because most of his career has been typified by inconsistent play, and frankly soft play more often than not. He was supposed to be a OAD, but here he is in his jr. season...and he isnt carrying his team like 6'8 Beasley carried his team back in '08. 6'8 Nash is more of a bust. Look at his team's record. He had a chance to be the man when Smart was suspended, but he wasnt.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

I wish that the terms thug and thuggish would go out of favor in sports commentary. There's too much baggage with the terms. They really speak more about a lifestyle than they do about on-the-court behavior.

I don't think that Nash or Smart are thugs. But I do think that Smart is a dirty player. He has come across as a cheap-shotting, flopping, whining, accusing, disrespectful player. In his immaturity that is likely just how the only way that he has learned to handle adversity. He should grow and mature and he may still be a cheap-shotter and a flopper, but that wouldn't make him much different from his NBA peers. I don't know that Nash is a dirty player. I didn't think that at the time he was intending to injure Embiid.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

I completely agree that Smart and Nash aren't thugs. I don't think they're the best when it comes to sportsmanship but that's on them, their coach and their University.

When you say the word comes with too much baggage, I'm guessing that you are referring to what many journalists/editorialist claim has racial overtones. I just want to point out that the word "thugs" is a byproduct of hip-hop music, at least when defining 'a tough anti-hero with criminal involvement' (Urban Dictionary).

Livin' life thug style -- Tupac (To live and die in L.A. 1996).

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 8 months ago

Self made Big'Biid ride pine after the TCU game due to injury concern, against Joel's wishes (who wanted to play). That tells you all you need to know about Bill Self. I'm not about to 2nd guess him or the staff. No need to micro-analyze common injuries. My medical guess is this could be a transverse process fracture (very common in athletes), which is off to the side of the vertebral body (on the outside, laterally). It heals. We move on--> We win or we lose...but that is secondary to Joel's health. Joel is a special young talent. He needs & deserves to be protected until he is 100%. We will battle without him, it is what it is.

Eric TheCapn 8 years, 8 months ago

I guess the selection committee will be watching as closely as we will.
ESPN: Selection committee to monitor Embiid injury
And here I thought the NCAA determined seeds based on teams' seasons, not how they expected them to perform in the Tourney.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 8 months ago

They do judge based on what the team has done on the floor. If an injury occurs however, the selection committee puts much more weight on how the team performed post injury. KU will likely be a 2 or 3 seed, could potentially drop to a 4 depending on conference tournaments, but KU will be judged on how they've done without Embiid because there's no guarantee he'll be back during the tournament.

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

Back in 2000, Cincinnati was the number one ranked team in the country but was given a 2 seed after Kenyon Martin's broke his leg. Fair or not, it does sway the committee's decisions.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago


1] One thing no one has mentioned, Okafor was an "old" Junior..Jo Jo is a "young" Freshman. The age difference berween the two has to be critical related to growth schedules and further injury potential.

2] Okafor was playing basketball since early grade school...Jo Jo, well, you all know the story.

3] Frankly, the last person who should be deciding if they play or not is the actual player...their natural competitive nature will force them to play under the most adverse physical conditions thus risking permanent damage.

4] Kansas and HCBS...shut him down for the year...this is a "no-brainer", don't blow it!!!

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

I understand where you are coming from with the "shut him down" talk as far as showing future recruits families that their child's health and future matter to the KU staff, but frankly this decision is not already cut and dried.

If Embiid is medically cleared to play without risk of the fracture turning into something more serious, and he can help the team win, and he wants to play, and his family approves then he should play. But only if all of those criteria are met.

As far as point 3, Bill Self should have specifed that Joel will make the final call on his availability only if the other criteria are satisfied.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

4] It's by no means a no brainer. As stated, a stress fracture has no increased risk of additional injury. He just needs to rest and stretch and get the muscle spasms to quiet down. He could be ready and able to hang a triple double on the board and not have a moment of discomfort.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 8 months ago

Benz, respectfully, let's just agree to disagree.....I can't believe a solid blow or hard fall to the back " has no increased risk of additional injury."

Walter Bridges 8 years, 8 months ago

True Oak but a solid blow to the back or a fall can cause injury to a previously uninjured player. I'm still hopeful that we will see him in the NCAA.

Glen Miller 8 years, 8 months ago

I never, not even once thought there was any foul play involved here. The fact that some of those who call themselves "diehard, lifelong fans" would question if coach Self and his staff handled Embiid properly is comical to me. At no point in coach Self's tenure has he ever put the teams well being over his players well being. In today's digital age, it sickens me the lengths that these radio hosts or TV personalities will go to question someone's integrity and moral compass to get their names out there, without knowing the facts of the story. It makes me sick to have some idiot with a microphone harping in such a manner when they obviously don't know what they are talking about. That is slander and should get that moron fired. (yes, I know this won't happen) I'm really irked about that BS and I think these people should be more accountable for their "stories" when it's proven to be a bunch of made up propaganda. I hope this guy feels like a fool, even if for a minute. Because we all know he is going to spew garbage out of his mouth again at some point.

Jim Stauffer 8 years, 8 months ago

As for the guy who says he loves 810 radio and then admits they are in search of a conspiracy, I would ask, "Isn't it difficult to love a conspiracy theorist?"

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 8 months ago

Who doesn't love a good conspiracy? There's something about speculating, extrapolating from the facts, interpreting the comments that really draws people in. Human nature is for people to love that moment when they get to be right even (and sometimes especially) at the expense of the person or people who were wrong and/or covering up the truth.

Benz Junque 8 years, 8 months ago

Lots of people love a GOOD conspiracy. I hate conspiracies based off of lunacy and ignorance and the desire to create attention to one's self. There is not one good reason to believe this conspiracy other than a rival fan who simply hates Kansas and will believe any ignorant garbage spwed out that makes Kansas look bad.

Mike Barnhart 8 years, 8 months ago

Nobody's perfect. Conspiracy is just a fragment of their show.

Scott Bonnet 8 years, 8 months ago

Can we please lead a boycott of sponsors for 810 WHB? I'm really tired of the incessant attacks on KU sports. Even the compliments are nearly always backhanded. Let them know about it

8 years, 8 months ago

They are already off my radio until Mr Conspiracy vacates his mic. RCJH

Tyson Ailshie 8 years, 8 months ago

I really just want to see Black go on a tear through both tournaments in full beast mode. He can do it. And has proven he can stay out of foul trouble. I haven't forgotten senior night. That is the real Tarik in my opinion. I'm rooting for that guy to be a beast this post season. If he does, I like our chances.

Steve Brown 8 years, 8 months ago

810 Sports Bar & Grille, won't eat there even if free ... K-State homers!

Scott Smetana 8 years, 8 months ago

If there are no long term consequences against playing with a stress fracture except for discomfort, I'm hoping Jo can return to the lineup in the second game in St. Louis. I'm betting he'll be feeling fine by then and we all know he's dying to play. However, I'm sure Self will only play him in limited minutes, more if Tarik is in foul trouble. Keeping Tarik out of foul trouble will be the key to that game. As you can tell, I'm terrified and generally hate the second game of the tourney.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 8 months ago

There is no risk in Embiid further damaging the stress fracture. The muscle around the stress fracture is the concern at this point. Embiid could theoretically play tomorrow, but the risk of triggering a back spasm is so high right now, that that is what could put him down for awhile. When the muscle gets to a point where a back spasm isn't likely to occur, that is when Embiid will be cleared and hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.

Robert Brown 8 years, 8 months ago

It is clear that KU needs to prepare as if Embiid will not play at all this season. Any injury to he back sounds very serious. It may not be as bad as it sounds, but I don't think they should take the risk. Every player will want to play even if he is injured so playing really should be out of Embiid's hands.

I think he needs to be shut down for the rest of the year. Should KU make the Final Four, perhaps he can come in to relieve starters, but all of that is a big if.

I expected this team to get no further than the Sweet 16 with Embiid. It is now about match-ups and yes, our seed will be affected by not having Embiid. We could slip to a 3 or 4 seed and we all know there are always upsets of the 3 and 4 seeds every year in the tournament.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree Robert, this team will get no further than the Sweet 16.

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