The nature of Ben Simmons’ foot injury was left purposefully vague by team officials, but the Sixers have cleared things up today. In a statement released by the team’s public relations department, they revealed he underwent successful surgery on a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Here is the team’s statement in full:
The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that forward Ben Simmons underwent successful surgery to repair an acute Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. Simmons suffered the injury when he rolled his ankle after landing on the foot of another player during a 76ers team scrimmage on September 30, 2016.
The surgery was performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley, Associate Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon and Fellowship Director of the Foot and Ankle Service at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Dr. Jonathan Glashow, Sixers Chief Medical Officer and Co-Chief of Sports Medicine Orthopedics at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, assisted with the procedure.
Simmons' rehabilitation will fall under the supervision of Sixers Director of Performance Research and Development Dr. David T. Martin.
"Our sports performance and medical staff was debriefed by Dr. O'Malley following the procedure, and we were encouraged by the positive feedback," Martin said. "Moving forward, a comprehensive return to court program will be implemented for Ben, and we will closely monitor his progress throughout the rehabilitation process."
Additional information regarding Simmons’ recovery and return to play timetable will be provided as available and when appropriate.
Sixers fans will recognize Dr. O’Malley’s name -- he was part of the team of surgeons that assisted in the bone graft procedure undergone by center Joel Embiid last summer. Dr. Glashow was involved with Embiid’s procedure as well, so the the team’s chief medical officer is becoming quite familiar with the process of fixing the feet of big men.
Once the team confirmed Simmons suffered a Jones fracture, surgery was the next logical step to take. Odds of reinjury for Jones fractures are higher than other breaks in that area of the foot, creating a scenario in which surgery is more common compared to similar foot injuries.
The team’s statement did not clarify any specifics regarding the surgery, but the most common route is to place a screw in the patient’s foot to serve two purposes:
A) Stabilize the surrounding bone
B) Expedite healing / minimize immobilization time
The most famous recent treatment of an NBA player’s Jones fracture was for Kevin Durant. His initial timetable was set at around 6-8 weeks to return, but he dealt with complications and ended up missing most of the 2014-15 season as a result. Other players who recently underwent surgery to repair Jones fractures include C.J. McCollum, Brook Lopez and Julius Randle, though the latter had the surgery while still in high school.
Smart money is on the Sixers taking the ultra-conservative route with Simmons’ health. If suggested recovery time is 6-8 weeks, expect him to miss in the ballpark of two-and-a-half to three months at least. That would place his return sometime from late December onward, likely falling in early 2017.
It’s a bummer he’ll miss a decent chunk of the season, but it’s far from the end of the world. So long as the organization remains focused on his long-term health, Simmons will be back and good as new before you know it.