Andre Iguodala and The Meaning of his Knee Contusion

By Dr. Ankur Verma

Andre Iguodala has a knee contusion. What does it mean? (Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr).

If you watched Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Warriors-Rockets, you may have noticed Andre Iguodala leave midway through the fourth quarter with an injury that was initially called a “left lateral leg contusion”.  Heck, even if you didn’t watch, you probably have heard by now if you have even passing interest in the series, considering Iguodala is vital to unlocking Golden State’s three of their five best lineups this postseason (in lineups that have played together at least 15 minutes), including their most heavily used lineup.  And Golden State is already facing decreased wing depth.

Initially, Iguodala was considered doubtful, but after X-rays and an MRI revealed no structural damage, he was upgraded to questionable a couple hours ago for tonight’s game.

A knee contusion is basically a knee bruise.  Due to impact to the knee, blood vessels around the area can be damaged and cause some bleeding and swelling in the area.  This causes pain and lack of range of motion.  Iguodala caught a pretty hard James Harden knee during a drive into the side of his own knee and from the way the knee bends inward, you immediately become concerned that there is some structural damage.

Structures of the Knee. (Credit: Mysid).

So the important thing from the imaging is to determine whether Iguodala had a patella (kneecap) fracture (determined from the X-ray) or lateral meniscus damage (determined from the MRI).  And because the blow was on the lateral aspect of the knee, there was a chance of medial collateral ligament damage.  This is what they mean by “no structural damage”.

If the knee contusion is bad, then it is possible for missed time to be significant.  A sampling of previous knee bruises in NBA players reveals the following:

Sampling of NBA Players with Knee Contusions

NameAgeGames Missed
Chris Mihm2110
Glenn Robinson2523
Tim Hardaway2616
Darrin Hancock2514
Allen Iverson2810
Chris Bosh2211
Ronald Murray2324
Shawn Bradley2911
Jason Kidd3030
Nene Hilario3126
Kenny Anderson2712
Jamal Mashburn2626
Jermaine O'Neal2932
Robert Horry3713
This list is not meant to be exhaustive and, as it is a loose investigation, may contain some errors.

The table above was only for players who missed a minimum of 5 games due to a knee contusion.  This is just to illustrate that it’s possible to miss double digit games from such an injury.

However, this is the playoffs, and there are countless examples of players playing even regular season games on “banged-up” knees without missing time (or a couple games here and there).

The good thing is we have a report from Ramona Shelburne that the bruise is inferior to the patella.  Since we were told that structures are intact, this would mean that the only reasons for concern now are range of motion and pain.  That means Iguodala will need to ice the knee and apply compression to improve both of those things. And on cue, there are reports that if he does play, he will wear padding on the knee, which will help with compression and protection.

The Warriors dodged a big one here.  Structural damage to Iguodala’s knee would have been a potential line-up destroyer given that treatment for a fractured patella or torn meniscus would potentially mean weeks before Iguodala could return.

Instead, there’s a decent chance we see him tonight.


Update: Iguodala has been ruled out for Game 4.