Andrew Bynum has huge question marks surrounding his injury history, especially those to his knees. Experts say going into this year that if Bynum is healthy and can regain his form from years prior, the Cleveland Cavaliers can be a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. That is a big “if” though.
As a senior in high school, Bynum suffered a deep bruise on his kneecap as well as slight ligament damage. Initially though, it was believed be to an ACL tear. Bynum consulted a second doctor who was able to overturn the opinion of the first doctor. This injury would be foreshadowing to what would come during his professional career.
The first major injury to Bynum’s knee as a professional occurred in the midst of his third NBA season, in the third quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers January 13th, 2008, game against the Memphis Grizzles. MRI results the following day indicated Bynum had a dislocated left knee as well as a bruised bone. The Lakers organization did not initially think it would require surgery but did announce he would miss up to eight weeks. Bynum would end up not playing a game for the rest of the year. In May of 2008, Bynum underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, performed by Dr. David Altchek.
Arthroscopy is a popular practice in the medical field today. It started becoming popular during the 1960s. The process of arthroscopy is widely used by athletes because of the fast healing time attached with it. In Bynum’s first surgery, Dr. Altchek removed cartilage debris and smoothed out some of the rough areas on his kneecap.
Bynum was back in the lineup for the Lakers by the start of the 2008-09 season. He was starting to regain his previous form. He did not miss any games through January 31st. But on the 31st, Andrew tore his right MCL when he collided with Kobe Bryant during the first quarter of their game versus the Grizzles, again. This third severe injury to his knee had no connection to the one he sustained a year ago, doctors announced.
After the official injury was announced, Bynum was relieved of the diagnosis. He feared he would be out for the entire regular season and the postseason. Had the injury been to his ACL, the recovery time would be close to a full calendar year. That was not the case, though. Team officials believed that he would miss somewhere between eight to 12 weeks with the MCL tear.
After undergoing the surgery and going through rehab, Bynum returned to the Lakers roster just before the regular season concluded. After missing 32 games, he returned to play for the Purple and Gold with four games left on the regular season schedule. Bynum would also play in all of the Lakers 24 playoff games.
Bynum’s effectiveness was noticeably declined after his return, but nonetheless, his presence still was important. The Lakers would go on to win the NBA Championship.
Bynum was healthy and ready to go at the start of the 2009-10 season. He sustained a few minor injuries throughout the course of the year, all of which cultivated to another knee injury. He missed two games in November with an elbow injury and another two games in February due to a hip injury. In March, he did not play in 13 games after straining his left Achilles tendon. The most serious of his injuries during the 2009-10 campaign came shortly thereafter in April. Bynum suffered a hyperextension to his right knee in Game 6 of the Lakers first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the same knee he tore his MCL on.
Unlike the previous injuries Bynum had sustained to his knees, the hyperextension did not cause him to miss any games. He was able to compete for the Lakers until their season concluded, once again with an NBA Championship.
During the offseason, Dr. Altchek again performed Arthroscopic surgery on Bynum in New York.
Going into the surgery, Dr. Altchek intended on just shaving away some of the torn cartilage. In the midst of the procedure, he elected to sew up the tear in Bynum’s knee. And because Dr. Altchek opted to sew the tear, a longer recovery period would be the result.
Initially following the operation, though, the Lakers expected Bynum to be available on a limited basis when they opened training camp on September 25th. But when training camp rolled around, he announced that doctors advised that he should spend four more weeks in rehab.
At the start of the Lakers 2010-11 season, Bynum was not ready to play. He would miss the first 24 games due to recovery. When he finally got back on the court, he began playing some of the best basketball of his career. He averaged over 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers while only missing four other games the entire year.
After his most productive, and definitely one his healthiest, seasons in a while, Bynum looked to open the 2011-12 season in stride. Unfortunately, the season started in late December due to the lockout, and even when it did start, Bynum missed the first four games. In the 2011 playoffs, Bynum elbowed J.J. Barea, and in turn, David Stern announced Bynum would have to miss the opening four games of the following year.
Healthy, Bynum debuted on December 31st, 2011 against the Denver Nuggets. He would not miss a game all the way until April. He would miss the Lakers April 3rd contest with a minor ankle sprain. Bynum was able to make it through the entire season without being hampered because of his knees. This was partly due to the fact that over All-Star weekend, he visited with Dr. Altchek.
During the visit, Bynum received a Synvisc Injection. The natural substance serves as a lubricant when injected into the knee. According to official website of Synvisc, it may be able to “provide up to six months of osteoarthritis knee pain relief with just one injection.”
The Lakers season would end in the Conference Semifinals for the second straight year, but Bynum was able to play through it all without an injury.
During the offseason, Bynum moved teams. On August 10th, 2012, the Lakers dealt him to Philadelphia in a four-team trade. The 76ers decided to take a chance on Bynum and hope his knees would hold up.
Just over a month after the trade, more work was being done on the knees of Andrew Bynum. This time, Dr. Peter Wehling, in Germany did the work on his knees. Orthokine treatment is an experimental medical procedure. Bynum elected to try it after his former teammate Kobe Bryant underwent the treatment and had positive results.
The actual process of the treatment involves extracting the patient’s own blood, deriving individual proteins from the blood sample, then applying those proteins back to the patient as a medication. The procedure is done to reduce chronic pain and osteoarthritis.
To maximize results of the procedure, Bynum was held out of basketball activities with the 76ers for three weeks. As the time came for Bynum to resume working out, discomfort in his knees persisted. As a result, Bynum missed the start of the 2012-13 season.
In the middle of November, the 76ers announced that Bynum had experienced a setback with his left knee. The setback was believed to have occurred while bowling. That has never been officially confirmed, but he did speak in detail about what was wrong with his left knee now. Bynum said that it was a “weakened cartilage state.” He also said he was experiencing swelling in both of his knees.
The story remained the same out of the Bynum camp for the following weeks after the bowling story broke. Swelling and pain in his knees persisted pass the new year. After two months of the season had gone by, Bynum had yet to appear in a game for the 76ers.
Then on March 19th, 2013, Philadelphia announced that Bynum’s season would be over. After consulting with doctors, it was decided that he should undergo another arthroscopic knee surgery. The operation again was performed by Dr. Altchek in New York. The target of the procedure was to clean out loose bodies inside both of his knees. As a result of cleaning the loose bodies out, swelling and the pain would decrease.
The Cavaliers took a gamble by signing Bynum. Since January of 2008, he has missed 154 games. The Wine and Gold could have found the pot at the end of the rainbow if Andrew Bynum is able to stay healthy for them this season. The Cavs better hope history does not repeat itself.