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March 11, 2020

Ben Simmons speaks on back injury recovery: "There’s no timeline on it"

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Ben-Simmons-Sixers-Celtics_010920 Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Ben Simmons was a defensive beast before his back injury forced him off the floor for at least two weeks.

The return-to-play timeline for Sixers star Ben Simmons has been moved back, as the team says he will be re-evaluated three weeks from now, two weeks after their initial timetable for a re-evaluation of Simmons' troublesome back.

A statement provided by the team says Simmons, "continues to progress in his rehabilitation. He is receiving daily treatment and is gradually increasing the activities in his strength and conditioning program."

Three weeks from now would bring us to April Fool's Day, and even if Simmons were available to return immediately after that time period is over, he would be available for just seven games between the end of the regular season and the playoffs. Any hope to build further chemistry with this group appears to have disappeared, and head coach Brett Brown alluded to the fact they might be without him during his media availability session on Tuesday afternoon.

"I feel going forward when you don't have Ben, my intention is to play [Al Horford] with Joel [Embiid] and try to grow that," Brown said. "When Ben comes back in the mix, we'll re-evaluate, but I feel like that period of time we're talking about is long enough for me where I do want to invest in the Joel-Al pairing while we don't have Ben, and see how that plays out."

Speaking to reporters before Wednesday night's game against the Pistons, Simmons was his usual guarded self, not really providing any more concrete information than what was offered in Philadelphia's press release earlier in the day. He wouldn't pin down a timeline, whether it was a potential long-term issue, or even whether he would potentially need surgery to correct the problem.

All of the answers were essentially the same thing: maybe. As an example, his response to a question about surgery:

"I think that’s something down the road if it gets there," Simmons said, "but right now I’m doing great. I feel great, I’m feeling strong."

As for whether he believes he'll be able to get it taken care of this season, Simmons offered just as vague a reply.

"It’s just something I’m rehabbing now. There’s no timeline on it, so whenever I’m back, I’m back," Simmons said. "Whenever I’m 100 percent, I’m coming back. I’m not here to sit out and just wait. But when I’m healthy, I’ll be playing."

Glad we cleared that up. The Sixers steered reporters away from asking about specifics from his rehab process, specifically whether he had been receiving cortisone shots (he said yes before the conversation moved elsewhere), and no update has been provided on the root cause of Simmons' nerve impingement.

A local orthopedic physical therapist recently explained to PhillyVoice that saying someone has a nerve impingement is not descriptive of the root cause.

"Many things can happen and occur to have that type of injury. it could be that he was hit in the back and twisted suddenly, it could be a disc that’s inflamed, it could be many different reasons why that would occur. The short version of the story is when you have something like that, there’s a lot of inflammation involved," Roxanne Smith of Novacare Rehabilitation told PhillyVoice in February. "The nerve doesn’t like to be pressed on, and if it is pressed on you’ll have a lot of issues, like significant pain that can radiate to your lower leg, you can have weakness in muscles that are associated with that nerve root, you can also have sensation changes in the leg as well, and all those things are telling you the nerve is compressed or pinched."

"You treat it all the same, the most important part is to get rid of any radicular symptoms you have, and those are symptoms that radiate into the leg and cause weakness and things like that, you need to manage those no matter what the diagnosis is....nerve impingement is basically something that is irritating the nerve to make it symptomatic. The goal is to get rid of the cause of what’s irritating the nerve."

At this stage, a couple of weeks into his recovery, we are all left guessing the severity of the situation here, but the extended timetable obviously doesn't offer much comfort to the public. 

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