Could Nerlens Noel's injury be traced to a high school injury?

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Nov 29, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) walks onto the floor after a timeout during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Joyce Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As the Kentucky Wildcats prepare for game number two without Nerlens Noel, some interesting information surfaced about Nerlens Noel’s knee injury. It seems that a largely forgotten high school knee injury could have contributed to last Tuesday’s injury:


But a largely forgotten incident early in Noel’s high school career could raise questions about potential structural issues with his leg, and whether he risked further damage by returning from that injury too quickly.

Five games into his sophomore season at Everett (Mass.) High, Noel fractured a growth plate in his left knee and missed the rest of the season. John DiBiaso, his former coach, said in a phone interview that doctors told Noel to rest the knee through the summer. But, DiBiaso said, Noel started playing with his travel team that spring at the urging of his advisers.

Leo Papile, the coach and founder of Noel’s travel team, the Boston Amateur Basketball Club, said he referred Noel to the Celtics’ team physician, Dr. Brian McKeon, who cleared him to play that spring. Papile said he was never informed that another orthopedic surgeon had recommended that Noel rest his knee until the fall.

When asked if Noel’s advisers played a role in when he returned to the court, Papile said: “I couldn’t tell you because I wasn’t one of them. They’re another story, I think.”

Dr. Robin West, an orthopedic surgeon on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ medical staff, said complications from growth plate injuries, such as deformity or malalignment, become more likely if an injury is not given proper time to heal. Those problems, sometimes so subtle that the patient does not even know they exist, can be foreboding.

“If the leg healed awkwardly and (Noel) had a malalignment in that knee,” Dr. West said, “that could predispose him to future injuries in that leg.”


Feb 13, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Kevin Stallings instructs his team from the bench against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half at Memorial Gym. The Volunteers beat the Commodores 58-46. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky faces Vanderbilt at 8:00PM tonight at Rupp Arena. While even without Noel, this is a game Kentucky should win easily, the loss of Noel and the fallout from the Tennessee game have some Commodore sites smelling the blood in the water:


Vanderbilt will have the ability to pressure Goodwin and Poythress thanks to their strong defense on the wings, but UK’s length could ultimately give them problems in Lexington. The ‘Dores are undersized in 2013, and though Josh Henderson and Shelby Moats have shown flashes as frontcourt players, they have struggled to keep up with stronger and faster forwards this season. Kentucky will be the more athletic team on the court Wednesday night, and that will put plenty of pressure on Vandy to come up with a game plan to stop them.


Fortunately for Vanderbilt, much of this domination came from the backcourt. Commodore destroyer Stokes had just nine points and nine rebounds in the win while guards Trae Golden and Jordan McRae combined for 39 points on only 19 shots. If Vandy can seal up the paint inside and use players like Shelby Moats, Kevin Bright, and Josh Henderson to get rebounds then they can help set Kedren Johnson, Kyle Fuller, and Dai-Jon Parker up for a similarly explosive night.


Feb 5, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 77-55. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was media opportunity day at UK, so here are the videos of John Calipari, Jarrod Polson, and Julius Mays.


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