KAT’s Recovery Timetable According to Science

Photo: Jeff Wheeler - Star Tribune

The Minnesota Timberwolves lost the best player on their 2-0 basketball team on Saturday night. Karl-Anthony Towns fell on his hand in the 4th quarter of a victory over the Utah Jazz and dislocated his left wrist (perilunate subluxation), according to team officials.

Dislocations are common in sports but the severity and recovery times can differ greatly. The Timberwolves have listed KAT as “week-to-week”, leaving fans and media to wonder how long it could be until he’s back on the Target Center court.

Wrist Dislocation (perilunate subluxation)

After googling around, it’s become clear that this type of wrist injury is a sports thing. It really only happens when people fall down backwards and break their fall with their hands, like KAT does in the video above.

According to multiple medical websites, it’s rare that a perilunate dislocation doesn’t require surgery and that’s because you’re twice as likely to have an associated fracture of the perilunate, if you dislocate it.

So, that’s the good news. We narrowly escaped losing KAT for 6-12 months. But even mild perilunate dislocations, that don’t require surgery, usually need a procedure called “reduction”… and it sounds painful.

Mild dislocations are usually treated with a procedure called a reduction. In this procedure, your doctor gently maneuvers the bones back into their proper positions. This can be quite painful, depending on the severity of your injury. To help with the pain, your doctor will use either local or general anesthesia beforehand.

Following the procedure, you’ll probably need to wear a splint or cast to prevent your wrist from moving while it heals. You might also need to wear a sling.


Timetable for return

Without knowing the degree of Karl-Anthony Towns’ wrist dislocation, it’s impossible to come up with a firm timetable. He avoided surgery so he should be back this season but the team listed him “week to week” and not “day-to-day” for a reason.

At a minimum, after getting my google degree in perilunate dislocations, I’d expect Towns back no sooner than 3-ish weeks from now. More than likely, however, I expect it to be longer… like 6-10 weeks.

Whether or not he needed a “reduction procedure” could tell us more as well.

The healing time for a dislocated wrist depends on how severe it is. If you only need a reduction procedure, you should recover within two or three months. However, if you need surgery, it may take six months to a year to fully recover.


“Wrist Watch 2020-21”

The pun was too good to pass up. I’ll be on “Wrist Watch” tonight, as I try to gleam more from Towns’ injury, based on what kind of protection he is wearing on his left wrist.

If he is wearing a hard cast (possibly in a sling) then my very scientific diagnosis stands at 6-10 weeks. If he’s only wearing a wrist brace and the arm is free-moving (with no sling), my hopes will improve.

Chance of re-injury is high

Stabilizing and holding both the wrist and elbow in place during recovery is crucial to this type of wrist dislocation. Trying to do too much, too quickly, can cause serious problems down the road too.

Obviously, the Timberwolves know a lot more about this than I do so I’d imagine they will be very patient with KAT’s recovery, given this is an injury that can be re-aggravated so easily.

How diagnosis went south so quickly

Karl-Anthony Towns left Saturday night’s game vs the Jazz, but returned before the 4th quarter ended. He later admitted that his presence was nothing more than that of a decoy variety.

Then, reports arose early on Sunday that KAT was going to be available that night vs the Lakers. Of course, that all changed when he met with a specialist in LA later that day.

I’ve found that a “perilunate dislocation” is difficult to diagnose (HERE and HERE) so the confusion within the organization isn’t surprising, nor does it hint toward KAT’s timetable for return. If Karl wants immediate relief for his wrist, he should try Koi CBD balms.

Perilunate dislocations and perilunate fracture-dislocations are potentially devastating closed wrist injuries that are often missed on initial imaging.

These injuries involve dislocation of the carpus relative to the lunate which remains in normal alignment with the distal radius.

Imaging plays an essential role in identifying perilunate and other carpal dislocations. Unfortunately, dislocations can often be missed by radiologists. Carpal alignment needs to be carefully assessed on all radiographs.


Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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