NBA Rumor: Zach Collins Injury

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Unfortunately, stress fractures are one of the more serious sports injuries as they often involve prolonged return times and high risk of re-injury. They occur at a rate of 20% in high-level athletes with about 90% occurring in the lower limb. How bad the stress fracture is depends on where it is and type, with Collins’ injury being one of the less common locations. Regardless, stress fractures are categorized as “high risk” or “low risk” based on how they heal.

“High risk” stress fractures can be much more problematic compared to “low risk”, as the break can get longer and/or take longer to heal. “Low risk” stress fractures are almost always managed successfully using conservative treatment (i.e., physical therapy and no surgery), while those that are “high risk” are more difficult to diagnose and may require surgery. Thus, it’s fairly obvious that Collins’ stress fracture may be categorized as “high risk” given the Trail Blazers’ announcement that he will undergo season-ending surgery. Regardless, injury severity can be graded based on changes seen on imaging (e.g., x-ray, MRI), which are often used to plan treatment, prognosis and when an athlete will return to action.

Collins was originally hoping to return in March and he’s pushed himself through rehabilitation sessions and individual basketball workouts throughout the coronavirus crisis, so the news was not surprising. But for it to finally become official was momentous. “When my doc came in and said my shoulder feels like a normal shoulder, that I was good to go, it was like a weight was lifted,” Collins said. “I tell people all the time that he whole rehab process isn’t difficult. It’s just very long and boring. The worst part is not being on the road with the team, not being around them every day, feeling disconnected. It’s weird. Odd. So, mentally, it’s a big struggle. I’m just super excited to be back and know that I can do everything again.”

This has put Collins in a tough spot, as the one thing left on his list for rehab was full contact, basketball action. In an interview for Trail Blazers Courtside, the Blazers’ big man gave Rip City an update on his rehab. I definitely think I am on the right track. Right now it’s tough because the last part of my development was playing and we can’t play right now. I’m just trying to simulate that as much as I can right now without going through contact with other players. It feels really good. Like I said before,.I haven’t really had any setbacks in my rehab. From day one it’s all been pretty smooth, it’s just a long process. But it feels great. I’m really happy with where I’m at. – Zach Collins

Everywhere you looked, there were positive signs in regard to injured players. There was Zach Collins, going through on-court drills with a basketball — shooting short jumpers and even left-handed layups — as he recovers from a torn labrum. No full workout with the team yet, but on the court and even shooting with his (injured) left arm. At the other end of the court, there was CJ McCollum working out with coaches — running full speed as he shot and went through defensive drills — as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

Zach Collins didn’t know it at the time, but that October night in Dallas, when he bowed his head and nearly cried in an empty locker room, his life was beginning to change for the better. The Trail Blazers starting power forward had just learned that his dislocated left shoulder, suffered in the third quarter of the team’s third game, would keep him out weeks, if not months — and if that didn’t take hold of his Adam’s Apple, the next few days would. For the next six days, he would wrestle with MRI results, second opinions, third opinions, and decisions of whether to have surgery or just rehabilitate the shoulder. He ultimately opted for surgery to repair a torn labrum, and he is not expected back on the court until March at the earliest.

Somewhere between the haze of dashed dreams and the post-surgery pity parties, Collins was confronted by what many professional athletes encounter during a major injury: an identity crisis. During most of his 21 years, basketball was the most defining element of his life. It was what he was best at, how he was recognized, how he managed his stress, and how he viewed himself. And now, basketball was gone until the spring, leaving him with a harrowing question: Who was he? “What else do you have?” Collins remembers asking himself. “And I realized, I don’t have much.”

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January 26, 2021 | 8:02 pm EST Update