David Chao, MD: LeBron James’ Knee Swelling Is A Long-Term Concern

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With advances in medical sleuthing, we can now get a better idea of where LeBron James’ general swelling is coming from, related to his knee injury.

Observing the picture and video evidence, he appears to have a Baker’s cyst in his left knee.

This is an area of concentrated swelling in the back of the knee that looks like a golf ball.

Dr. Evan Jeffries gave an update on the Lakers All-Star and pointed out persistent swelling. He narrowed his first impression to either a Baker’s cyst or inflammation stemming from bursitis.

The golf or racquetball-sized lump in the back of LeBron’s left knee is not necessarily severe.

However, the cyst can get big enough to inhibit knee flexion (bending) and extension (straightening).

A bigger concern lies with how the cyst was formed. Typically, a case like this suggests there is excessive swelling in the knee that “leaked” out to the back.

It is key to determine the cause and the two leading reasons are meniscus tear or arthritis, but neither bears good news for the 19-year NBA veteran.

James has missed four games to date. There has been optimism that the swelling will improve with rest.

There is no question that the extra fluid can dissipate with rest, draining and medication; ultimately, that doesn’t address the underlying cause.

Certainly one can dry out a puddle of water underneath a leaky sink and restrict the output in the process to quell the damage, but what when you return to requiring the sink to start working?

Recurring swelling will be the main concern unless James can get to the root cause.

It may be possible to return this season and load-manage the knee — it seems that he’ll need a definitive solution to heal, which may include arthroscopic knee surgery at some point.

The Purple and Gold have experienced their share of issues with Anthony Davis just returning but not fully recovered from an MCL sprain, to now losing Carmelo Anthony due to a right hamstring injury. 

The Lakers are drifting out of the playoff bubble, and the knee issue for James may be enough to knock the Lake Show out of contention.

Watch as Pro Basketball Doc breaks down the injury.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.


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