NAME: Mateen Cleaves
TEAM: Michigan State Spartans
POSITION: Point Guard
INJURY: Stress Fracture
OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED
Theo Ratliff, Philadelphia 76ers; Latrell Sprewell, New York Knicks; Kristen Maloney, gymnast; Anna Kournikova, tennis; Courtney Alexander, Fresno State; Carl Everett, Houston Astros
HOW IT HAPPENED
Cleaves injured his right foot in early October, and, after three weeks of soreness and discomfort, he had it examined. The medical staff found that he had a serious stress fracture and would need surgery. He will likely miss 8-12 weeks. Most cases of stress fracture are less serious and require far less recovery time.
Cleaves is a senior at Michigan State. The 6'2", 195-pound guard is the nation's only returning All-American. He was named the Blue Ribbon Preseason Player of the Year. During the 1998-1999 season, he led the Spartans to the Final Four and set a Big 10 record with 264 assists in 38 games. He is also the reigning Big 10 MVP, an award he's won twice. After this season, he will likely be taken in the top 10 of the NBA draft.
WHAT IS A STRESS FRACTURE?
A stress fracture occurs when bone begins to break down. It is an incomplete break of the bone. The injury is caused by repeated micro-traumas to a single area and can be a result of weight bearing, repeated impact, or one isolated impact. Stress fractures occur most often in the tibia (shin bone) and the feet.
Stress fractures are diagnosed using a combination of clinical exams, X-ray studies, and MRIs. In some cases, the injury may not show up on an X-ray because it is either too small or because it has not yet done enough damage to the bone to be evident.
Treatment involves keeping the patient from placing weight on the affected area for a varying period of time. After this, the athlete should slowly increase his workout regiment until he is back to full strength. Occasionally, as in Cleaves' case, surgery is necessary. He had a bone graft and a pin inserted into his foot. Because he required surgery, he will require more recovery time.
There is no way to prevent stress fractures.
Recovery consists of slowly increasing physical therapy to regain strength in the area; the bone heals on its own. The key to successful recovery is patience. If the athlete returns too soon, he may reinjure the same area. Therapy includes both flexibility and strengthening exercises. In most cases, the athlete is sidelined for 3-6 weeks.
Once an athlete returns to competition -- assuming that the injury is completely healed -- he should have no greater risk of reinjury than any other athlete. Cleaves should be able to play pain-free when he returns.