NBA Draft Injury Series: Bruce Brown’s Jones Fracture

By Dr. Ankur Verma

The NBA Combine is this week in Chicago and while many of the prospects will go through drills and scrimmaging, the most important part of the Combine remains the medicals.

In honor of that, we are looking at 2018 NBA Draft prospects with injury questions and trying to determine if we can glean anything about their future based on their respective injuries.

For analysis of Michael Porter Jr., click here.

As always, we’re not privy to the specific medical information for these prospects; we’re just trying to draw conclusions based on available public information.

Today, we’ll take a look at potential first-round pick Bruce Brown.

Bruce Brown, Shooting guard, Miami  Age-21  Height- 6’5”  Weight-195 lbs

Brown had a strong freshman season at the University of Miami.  However, he struggled his sophomore season, particularly with his shooting, before developing a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot that required surgery.  This injury caused him to miss the final 12 games of the season.  Nevertheless, he is still considered a good NBA prospect due to his versatility and defensive prowess.

It has been difficult to get much information about Brown’s injury.  Many media sources refer to it simply as a “left foot injury” that required surgery.  However the article linked above is probably the most specific I’ve seen in terms of his diagnosis.  This is important because there are two different fractures of the fifth metatarsal that have two different implications.  One is an avulsion fracture, where a tendon or ligament pulls off a small piece of bone and these usually heal well in a short period.  These can be caused by ankle sprains.

A Jones fracture occurs at the bone leading to the small toe. (Credit: Mdscottis)

However, since the article mentions a stress fracture, it is likely we are talking about a Jones fracture.  This is the infamous injury that cost Ben Simmons his rookie year and Kevin Durant most of one season.  They are commonly caused by overuse and are prone to non-union because there is poor blood supply to the area.

The interesting thing is that surgical intervention generally results in a much faster recovery compared to nonoperative intervention.  According to this review by Bowes and Buckley, some studies show that the average athlete returns to full play in 7-8 weeks.   However, according to the article, it appears that Brown underwent surgery at the end of January and was in a walking boot from February 1 to March 13.  That’s 6 weeks right there.  The article then states he was been “fully cleared” for on-court work since the beginning of May.  We’re looking at around 12 weeks, if not more, so it seems Brown’s injury has been a little more complicated than usual.  This pairs with the fact that he was initially reported to miss only 6 weeks.  So that’s a little bit concerning, though it’s likely that his people were being cautious to not rush him back and risk re-injury during the predraft process.

Let’s take a look at NBA players who suffered a Jones fracture as their initial NBA injury and how they fared afterwards.  This was taken from my aforementioned NBA Injury Database, as well as a search through ProSportsTransactions.  Same caveats and limitations apply.

NBA players with Jones Fx as Initial Injury

NameAge at time of InjuryHeightWeight (lbs)Minutes Played%Recurrent?
Anthony Bonner226-821591.5Yes
Cedric Ceballos246-619079.2No
Bryant Stith226-520899.1No
Mike Bibby246-119068.0No
Kwame Brown226-1129063.9No
Brian Scalabrine236-9241100No
Rodrigue Beaubois226-017075.8Yes
Terrico White206-52150Unknown
Dominique Jones226-421581.2No
James Anderson236-621397.5No
Danny Fortson236-726063.5Yes
Minutes Played%= Percentage of career minutes played AFTER the Jones fracture
Recurrent= Subsequent Jones fracture that caused missed games
Initial injury is defined as an injury that causes player to missed more than five games.
I only included players if they had a confirmed fracture in the fifth metatarsal and if they were draft picks. This naturally excludes undrafted players, which is a limitation.
There are far more players who had a Jones fracture at some point in their career, but I was more interested in those that had it as an initial injury.
I only included players that are no longer active.

 

The outcomes are generally good, as you can see above.  Most players are able to play at least as long after a Jones fracture as their initial injury as they did before the injury.  Cedric Ceballos and Bryant Stith are the closest physical comparisons to Brown and they were able to go on to have relative lengthy careers.

The Ringer states that one of Brown’s strength’s is the ability to attack closeouts on offense, and he is able to play off-ball with timely cuts and transition sprints.  While these pluses may conceivably be hampered by a foot injury, the good news is Brown participated in the agility and speed drills at the Combine this week so we can assess where he ranks compared to his peers.  His lane agility time of 11.11 seconds ranked an average-ish 19th out of 36 guards that participated, while his shuttle run of 3.43 seconds ranked dead last, per NBA stats.  In terms of pure speed, his three-quarter of the court sprint time of 3.20 seconds ranked 27th out of 36th guards.  While those numbers aren’t that great, it would take a great leap of faith to state that the Jones fracture is directly contributing to it.  It is worth noting, however.

Level of Worry: Brown’s strengths as an NBA prospect are due to his defense and versatility.  His greatest weakness is his shooting, which will determine whether he will stick in the league.  His 3-point percentage dropped from 34.7% to 26.7% from his freshman to sophomore year, which is reflected in an overall drop of effective field goal percentage from 51.5% to 45.7%.  While it is true the metatarsals are involved to some extent in shooting, the after effects from the Jones fracture is unlikely to have a dramatic effect.  Therefore, given the generally good outcomes from Jones fractures based on historical data, my concern is minimal that this injury, as opposed to other factors, will stunt his development as an NBA player.

Thanks to Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine for information on Jones fractures.