Karl-Anthony Towns is Prioritizing Wolves Playoff Run Over His Own Future with Meniscus Quick Fix

Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Karl-Anthony Towns was diagnosed with a torn meniscus on Thursday, sending shockwaves through a Minnesota Timberwolves organization and fan base that had been eyeing a deep playoff run for the first time since 2003-04.

But last night, a glimmer of hope shined down when it was reported that Towns is hoping to return sometime around the start of the playoffs; that he will be re-evaluated in four weeks, with the hope he can begin ramping up for a postseason return.

Towns conferred with team doctors and specialists on a course of action once an MRI discovered the tear in recent days, and committed to the immediate procedure because it gives him a chance to rehab and get back to the team for what’s turning into the best regular season in franchise history.

Adrian Wojnarowski – ESPN

Karl-Anthony Towns refuses to miss what could be an epic Minnesota Timberwolves playoff run

karl-anthony towns and anthony edwards Minnesota Timberwolves
Photo: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Given the return timeline that has now been reported, we can assume KAT opted for a meniscectomy procedure. Instead of suturing the torn meniscus, doctors will cut the torn part out (partial meniscectomy) or cut the entire tendon out (full meniscectomy), in more extreme cases. Either way, a meniscectomy allows a much faster recovery time than a meniscus repair.

But there’s a reason why a meniscectomy is not the recommended procedure for a torn meniscus, in most cases. According to multiple medical websites I’ve scoured this morning, meniscectomies do not have the long-term recovery success that meniscus repairs do. In other words, by opting for a meniscectomy, Karl is inviting future (more chronic) issues with healing and long-term joint function, possibly leading to arthritis and cartilage loss.

  • removing the torn part of the meniscus (a procedure called a meniscectomy);
  • repairing the meniscus by suturing the torn parts together.

In most patients, meniscus tear repair is preferred over meniscus removal. That’s because studies have shown when the meniscus is repaired and preserved, patients tend to experience better overall healing and better long-term joint function. In fact, some data shows that patients that have had part of their meniscus removed have a much higher likelihood of develop arthritis and cartilage loss in the knee.

Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel – Ortho Illinois

It seems that removal of the torn meniscus is almost always preferred in cases where they tendon is damaged badly. In those extreme cases, there can be fragments of the tendon get stuck in the knee and cause pain.

Choosing the best procedure for a knee injury depends on the extent of the damage. A complete horizontal tear, vertical radial tear, or degenerative tear may need a meniscectomy. The stray pieces of cartilage get caught in the knee while bending, which can be painful. Removing the cartilage will allow for better function of the knee. On the other hand, meniscal repair works for longitudinal tears or partial horizontal and radial tears where much of the meniscus is still intact. After surgery and physical therapy, patients can regain the function of the knee and resume sports or other activities with ease.

Minnesota Valley Surgery Center Website – Orthopedic

Again, I openly admit this is conjecture. I do not have KAT’s MRI results in front of me. Even if I did, I’m not here to fool you anybody into thinking I’m a medical professional of any kind. But common sense says that Karl’s tear was not extreme, given he and the Timberwolves did not know anything was wrong with his meniscus until digging further into some discomfort and soreness he had been dealing with.

I haven’t been the biggest Karl-Anthony Towns supporter, during the last handful of years. But I appreciate him for things like this. The smarter decision for KAT’s career would have been opting for the more invasive surgery and longer-term recovery. Instead, he’s putting that on the line because he refuses to miss what we all hope is a postseason that fans and players alike will never forget. The type of run we haven’t seen here in two decades.

Related: NBA Execs Expect Timberwolves to Trade Karl-Anthony Towns This Summer

The Wolves will be fine the rest of the season without KAT. In fact, it could keep Anthony Edwards engaged in a way he hasn’t been since the All-Star break. We saw it last night when he went for 44 points and secured a game-winning block that might be the best defensive play I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes.

But once the playoffs begin, this team will need Karl’s offensive firepower to help keep defenses from solely focusing on suffocating Ant, in order to stand a chance in a postseason series. We’ll know about KAT’s status and when he might return in four weeks, when he is re-evaluated.

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