Why did Kyrie Irving have two more knee surgeries?

Posted on April 20, 2018

(Last Updated On: April 20, 2018)

One of the most popular articles I’ve written is,

On having metal in your body (surgical implants, weather pains, and more)

Someone commented about a broken kneecap, which reminded me of Kyrie Irving. Irving broke his patella a few years back, in a very unfortunate situation,

How freaky was Kyrie Irving’s knee injury?

Irving is out of the 2018 NBA playoffs due to needing two more surgeries on that knee. But it’s been three years since he hurt it! Why is he having followup surgery? After all, the dude has been a perennial all-star. Knee seems fine, no?

Despite returning to such a high level of play, he’s still been in and out of the lineup from his knee flaring up. The Celtics were aware they might have to manage his minutes because of this. If you go back during those flare ups, you’ll see him awfully frustrated. I remember him once saying something like “I don’t [expletive] know. It just flared. Completely random.”

When he fractured the knee, a lot of people chalked it up to the “shit happens” category. It was anything but. However, once you have hardware in your body, everything changes. Random pain episodes, whether you properly manage your minutes or workload, are much more a concern. Although, random is still subjective…


Brief background on broken kneecap surgery

After enough of these flareups, Irving, his surgeon, the Celtics, took out the tension wire in order to give him relief. This gets technical, but the tension wire helps hold the kneecap together until it fuses. Which really isn’t that long. 10 weeks or so. (Similar to healing from any other regular fracture.) The orthopedist I know told me it’s common for that tension wire to loosen -after it’s done its job- and become irritating.

Look at some pictures of tension wires, and it’s not hard to imagine why!

-> Good sources,


AO Foundation

Eventually -once the surgeon is comfortable the patella has healed- they can / will take the wire out. With Irving, they did that, but it caused an infection in the remaining screws, so they had to remove those too.

But because the screws were in the bone, when they take them out, there is no bone there, so now the knee is compromised and basically needs to heal all over again. Note, these are BIG screws,

You can imagine if you go off running with a hole or two in your knee, it’s more likely to break.

-> Good videos,

Now Irving is out a few months- similar to that 10 weeks or so mark. In this case, it looks like he’ll be out more like 16 weeks. Again, those are big screws. Going to take some more time to heal. (At least that’s my guess, without knowing his case specifically.)

Long story short, the hardware is what holds the fracture in place. It needs to be in there long enough to do its job, to allow the bone to reattach, despite the fact it can be irritating as hell in the meantime. If it is removed, you have to allow the body time to again adapt to no hardware. It’s like having a building with a beam put in. If you take the beam out, you need to allow time to put in another, before you have a bunch of people go using the building.


Why not put the surgery off until summer?

This does beg the question, Irving had been dealing with this on and off for a while. Why not wait to do surgery? That’s a good question. In terms of the tension wire,

  1. It must have been really irritating him / you can only play through so much
  2. He was only supposed to be out maybe a month

Remember, three years post-op, that wire isn’t doing anything productive. The hope was take it out and have Irving feeling his best come playoff time. As they say, it was “minimally invasive.”

Thing is, there is only minimally invasive surgery to surgeons. There is no minimally invasive surgery for patients. For patients, the scale goes from stinks to sucks to blows ass. The Celtics hoped they were in the clear for a stinks surgery. Turns out they all but lost their opportunity at a NBA championship this year. Because that minimally invasive procedure caused an infection in Irving’s knee, which is always a risk of surgery. You can’t hold off on an infection. You don’t want the bone to degrade in a 26 year old guy just because you don’t want to miss some games. (From what I’ve briefly gathered from a surgeon, the infection loves metal, but also starts to eat away at bone. Basically, the metal (screws in Irving’s case) has to come out to save the bone.)

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