LeBron James knee injury: Expert medical analysis on ‘general swelling’ for Lakers’ superstar

In the midst of a dominant season, Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James has been dealt a setback in the form of a left knee injury.

The injury, which was initially reported as “knee swelling,” first kept James out of the Lakers’ road loss to the 76ers on Jan. 27. After James’ knee did not respond well to pre-game workouts, he left the team’s road trip early and returned to Los Angeles in order to receive an MRI and more treatment on his knee.

MORE: The latest on LeBron’s knee injury

While the MRI revealed no structural damage in James’ knee, it did reveal “general swelling” that will hold James out for the foreseeable future.

What is general swelling? For more information on what James is battling, we reached out to our medical expert, Dr. Michael S. George of the KSF Orthopedic Center in Houston, Texas, for a better understanding of James’ injury, possible causes and his chances to return at a dominant level.

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Expert medical analysis on LeBron James’ knee injury

What caused LeBron James’ knee injury?

“There are a multitude of possible causes of knee swelling ranging from muscular tightness to sprained ligaments to arthritis but if the MRI truly showed no structural damage, then the swelling simply could be the result of a buildup of stresses on the knee from a long NBA season. Just like a player could have swelling in their foot and ankle without structural damage, so too can the knee get swollen without any internal damage.

Proper knee function depends on the strength, flexibility and balance of the surrounding muscles, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings. When those muscles get tight or fatigued, the mechanics of the need can be thrown off balance which can lead to pain and swelling.”

With respect to the buildup of stresses from a long season, the 37-year-old James is averaging 36.6 minutes per game this season, his highest mark since the 2017-18 season.

MORE: Where LeBron ranks on all-time leaderboards

How is LeBron James’ knee swelling treated?

“In [the above] case, the treatment is rest, stretching and strengthening until the swelling and pain subside. Even after the condition improves, it is important to continue stretching, strengthening and resting when needed, or the swelling and pain can return.”

Should we be concerned about LeBron James’ health moving forward?

“Knee swelling in an athlete is very common and if there’s truly no structural damage on MRI, then I probably wouldn’t read too much into it and I would expect him to return at some point soon without difficulties.”

Lakers without LeBron James

Injury/reason for absence From Until Games missed Record
Right ankle soreness Oct. 26 Oct. 27 2 1-1
Abdominal strain Nov. 4 Nov. 17 8 3-5
Suspension Nov. 23 Nov. 23 1 0-1
Health and safety protocols Nov. 30 Nov. 30 1 1-0
Left knee soreness Jan. 27 3 0-3
TOTAL     15 5-10

As of Feb. 1, James has missed 15 games due to injury, suspension and the health and safety protocols this season.

The Lakers are 5-10 without James and 19-17 when he is active.

When will LeBron James return?

According to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania on Tuesday, Feb. 1, James is expected to sit out of the Lakers’ meeting with the Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Feb. 2. 

Charania added that James could be out a few more games beyond Tuesday’s tilt as the Lakers plan to take the cautious approach with the superstar in his 19th season.

Lakers schedule 2021-22

Date Opponent Time (ET) National TV
Feb. 2 vs. Trail Blazers 10:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 at Clippers 10:00 p.m. TNT
Feb. 5 vs. Knicks 8:30 p.m. ABC
Feb. 8 vs. Bucks 10:00 p.m. TNT
Feb. 9 at Trail Blazers 10:00 p.m.

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