Giannis' back: Sports therapist breaks down Bucks star's injury

Giannis’ back: Sports therapist breaks down Bucks star’s injury

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- On a 'do or die' timeline, the Milwaukee Bucks' medical staff is doing everything it can to get Giannis Antetokounmpo back on the court for the team's first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. But specialized pads, massages and stretching can only take an athlete so far.

Michael Falk makes a living helping professional athletes return from injuries. At his Delafield clinic Monday, the owner of Kinetic Sports Medicine said the concern with a lower back contusion, which was how the team described Antetokounmpo's injury after a hard fall in Sunday's series-opening game, was tightness spreading from the Bucks star's back to other parts of his lower body.

A contusion is a medical term for a bad bruise. The contusion typically involves bruising in deep tissue around the body part that absorbed a hard impact.

"Typically, the body's response is often, kind of, tighten up all the muscles around that and go into a protective mode," Falk said. "So then, all the muscles in his lower back and hips will, sometimes, really lock up and tighten up to try to limit motion, and that can be almost more painful than just the actual contusion itself."

Falk said that tightness could especially limit a player like Antetokounmpo, whose style involves explosive drives to the net and creating points on fast breaks, as opposed to a shooting specialist who primarily gets open and waits for a pass.

Falk said the simple action of running, especially on such a large frame, could aggravate soreness in Antetokounmpo's back.

"Can he just get through actually running, pushing off that leg, jumping and landing on one leg, like he does driving to the basket?" Falk said. "That's just a lot of force that's going to be going through those hips and up into his spine."

Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters Monday an MRI on Antetokounmpo's back came back "clean." He added the team did not practice after Sunday's game, instead having a film session. 

"He's still sore, but I think, progress, and he's getting some treatment," Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo, one of three finalists for the NBA's Most Valuble Player award. "We'll just continue to monitor him."

Falk said he would be surprised if the team made any announcements on Antetokounmpo's status for Wednesday's Game 2 until right before the game.

"I think they're gonna give him every last minute to try to get ready to play," Falk said.

Falk added part of that process over the next couple of days would be determining what types of treatment Antetokounmpo responds to best, and what helps prevent the six-time NBA all-star's back and hips from tightening up during a game.

"Does he need to stay on the [exercise] bike to stay loose?" Falk said. "Kind of testing those things, like, what his helping him feel the best, so that when they go into the game or try to get ready for the game, they sort of have a routing they've been working on."

Asked whether, in his opinion, Antetokounmpo will suit up for Wednesday's game in Milwaukee, Falk said he couldn't say for certain. He noted the Bucks have top-of-the-line equipment, such as specialized padding that could help protect Antetokounmpo's back from the jostling and other types of physical play that accompany playoff basketball.

"We all know that he's gonna do everything in his power to be out there," Falk said. "And I don't think I'd ever bet against Giannis in anything."

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