McCollum Discusses Knee Injury, Rehab And Timeline For Return

by Casey Holdahl
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Prior to the Trail Blazers' 106-98 victory versus the Indiana Pacers Monday night at the Moda Center, guard CJ McCollum discussed the popliteus strain in his left knee that he suffered in Saturday's loss in San Antonio. After the initial diagnosis, which the team will re-visit in roughly a week, McCollum talked about being relieved that the injury wasn't more severe, whether he'll return before the playoffs, Googling "popliteus," what goes into rehabilitating the injury and the importance of not rushing back before the injury is healed...

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CJ McCollum: Mentally, I'm good. Physically, got a lot of work to do, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. Got some good rehab in yesterday and today, try to build on that each day.

Where you relieved about the severity of the injury?

CJ McCollum: Yeah, I wasn't sure exactly what it was. I knew where it was hurting at, I knew that could mean a few different things based on the MRI, but it was positive. I mean, as good as it could be considering the circumstances. Now just looking forward to the next phase.

What's the plan moving forward?

CJ McCollum: Just take it day by day, rehab and do what they tell me to do, try to do a little bit more each day. Working with the range of motion, strengthening some of the muscles around it, try to get some of the swelling, stuff like that out and go from there.

How long would you imagine you'll be out?

CJ McCollum: What, did they say I'll be re-evaluated in one week? So. Just taking it day by day, I don't have a timeline that I'm going to give you guys, but I think just based on the research, there's not a lot of injuries like this that have happened. So timeline is different just depending on the age, how well your body heals, what you've done before that and kind of where you're at. But hopefully I can be back sooner than later.

Is this a thing where you did your own research on who's had this, how long they were out just to get a sense of...

CJ McCollum: When you hear "popliteus" or however you say it, you kind of Google it. I seen it based on the kind of breakdown they gave me on the knee, seeing like the different things I had around my knee because I was worried that it was something else. So trying to picture what it could be and once they showed me the breakdown, I got to see the MRI and where I was at and I kind of just researched it. There's different timelines depending on who you are. I know Kevin Garnett had a similar injury but obviously we're not the same people, two different body types. Everybody's body is different, it's just about how fast the muscle can heal and how fast I can be comfortable with playing on it.

Do you expect to come back in the regular season? Is that a goal of yours?

CJ McCollum: I think my goal is just to come back when I'm healthy. Obviously you don't want to miss games -- this is the seventh game I've missed in four years and two of them was rest and one was being left off the roster, so I don't like to miss games. But I've got to do what's best for myself from a health standpoint. Doctors will sign off when they think I'm ready so hopefully that's sooner than later, but I'm two days in so I don't know how it will be two weeks, three weeks.

What are the challenges?

CJ McCollum: The rehab phase is something I've done historically breaking my foot, so I've been through that, so I understand it's a process. You can't get frustrated over not being able to do certain things, having limited mobility, struggling to walk to the bathroom and stuff like that. But I think the biggest thing is just being away from the team. You're removed from the team, you're not able to play, you're not able to practice. The rehab phase is harder than actual training to play. Longer days, longer hours, you've constantly trying to elevate it, constantly trying to work the muscles around it. Then you've got conditioning, there's lifting, there's just a lot more that goes into that side of things as opposed to me just showing up, working on my body and playing.

What grade of strain did they say you have?

CJ McCollum: I'm not sure. I would imagine there's probably three or four versions of it, I think four is probably the worst. Hopefully mine is in the middle but I didn't ask. I just asked what I had and how long they thought it was going to take. They were basically like "We'll re-evaluate you bi-weekly, see how it goes from there."

Do you plan on going on the next road trip?

CJ McCollum: That's something we'll talk about, probably about 10 days from now. I think the next trip is the 28th, 27th (ed. note: it is the 27th). That's something we'll talk about at this time next week or whenever we're getting ready to leave, see where I'm at.

What are you doing right now?

CJ McCollum: Physical therapy in terms of lifting, some strengthening, some movements, massage therapy, I think I did some restricted bloodflow stuff today on the bike, some cardo on the bike, did some pool workouts earlier, just like movement stuff, working on some of the different movements that the popliteus effects in terms of the walking, the bending of the kneecap, the twisting of the knee cap. I'm sure you guys have probably looked it up to see exactly what it is and what it does. But a lot of it is getting my (deceleration) back, that's something that will take some time. Acceleration, deceleration because of having to plant and kind of stop on the knee, so working on some of those slight movements. And then just trying to rest, change the diet up a little bit, add some things in to kind of help the muscle recover, Omega 3, fish oil, heavy protein, stuff like that.

Is it something that you feel right now? Can you always tell it's there or is it more a load issue?

CJ McCollum: Well, I'm leaning up against a wall... Pain comes and goes depending on what you're doing, depending on what pills I'm taking at that moment in time. Certain movements, it's painful. It's hard to explain but it's an uncomfortable feeling, like something is pulling the back of your leg.

It's a different injury and you're different people, but do you look at a guy like Moe Harkless and what he went through last year and what he's gone through this year as kind of a "Hey, I need to pace myself here"?

CJ McCollum: Yeah, you never want to rush back. Obviously you want to get on the court as fast as possible but 1) you don't want to be a liability, you don't want to hurt the team and 2) you don't want to hurt yourself, you don't want to set yourself back. Try to come back too early and then hurt something worse. When you're dealing with a knee, where you're dealing with something like that, the muscle is more about a time thing. There's nothing I can physically do to make it heal faster besides eating properly, allowing my body to rest and recover and trying to strengthen some of the muscles around it, but the muscle is going to heal at its own rate. It's an interesting dynamic whereas Moe's was more, I think, the front of the knee and maybe something involved with actually being in the knee. Mine's an actual muscle, a small muscle, that operates a lot of the basic movements of the knee. So I just have to be careful with what I'm right now, the first three to five days, then kind of open things up as we progress to seven to 10, 10 to 14 day period.

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