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  • Writer's pictureRandon Hall, MD

Separated Ribs? Not What You Think

Rib Cartilage
(Modified) Photo by Nino Liverani on Unsplash

Damian Lillard's Injured Rib

Damian Lillard injured his rib in game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Reports state that he has a "separated ribs". Although "separated ribs" is not a common term, it typically refers to the incomplete cartilage fracture of the rib. His likely injury is unique in that it is not actually of the bony part of the rib, it is of the cartilage connection of the rib to the sternum. Incomplete means that it has not broken all the way through the cartilage attachment. These type of injuries likely occur from either direct impact to the area or from wear and tear through the season. When the rib injury affect the bony aspect of the rib we have a good idea to how long the bone will take to heal. When it affects the cartilage healing rates can vary dramatically and it can become a recurring issue that returns when activity is resumed. Treatment can be as basic as icing, bracing, taking oral pain medication and limited activity until resolution of pain. However, more aggressive treatment may include injecting numbing medication around the nerve that goes to the rib or at the site of the injury, which has risks. Of note, when injury occurs to the cartilage and is persistent, one could attempt a cortisone injection in the cartilage area to reduce pain and inflammation.

What is the impact ?

This type of an injury will be aggravated from twisting, turning and body to body impact. It will also impact deep breathing and the ability to take deep breaths during the game and raise the arm overhead. I expect this to effects Lillard on both sides of the court, impacting his ability to defend as well as aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball. Watch for teams to draw him down low into the paint to see if he can withstand the contact and potentially take advantage of the vulnerability. He may even need to play with a protective rib padding on which could impact his game even further. Basically this is a pain issue above anything else and it is certainly an option to inject numbing medication around the nerve that goes to the rib or at the site of the injury, Additionally, because the injury is at the cartilage and not at the bone, it is very well possible this continues to bother him throughout the remainder of this series.


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