The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NBA News: 76ers’ Joel Embiid’s Foot Injury, One Year Later

Posted by on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015


Last June, we wrote about the Philadelphia 76ers’ #1 draft pick, Joel Embiid, and the navicular stress fracture he sustained in his right foot. For a prospect with great defensive skills who had been compared to greats like Tim Duncan and Hakeen Olajuwon, this foot injury was very bad news. The center underwent foot surgery with two plates and screws inserted, as many players do; but once the hardware’s in, there is no predicting what will happen. One hopes for the best and plans for a four to six month recovery, but each individual body sets its own agenda for healing. Coaches opted to play it safe and keep Embiid out for the whole season, rather than rush him back to the game. This week, news surfaced regarding Embiid’s progress — but it was not what fans wanted to hear.

joel embiid foot
At this rate of foot injury recovery, we may never get to see Joel Embiid don the 76ers uniform. Image Source:

Joel Embiid’s Navicular Fracture ‘Not Healing As Anticipated’

It seemed like Cameroonian ball player Joel Embiid was all set for NBA training camp in July. He experienced “a little soreness” that necessitated the use of a walking boot back in March, but he recently made it through weeks of “rigorous workouts” without pain. Eyewitness accounts told Yahoo! News that Embiid was delivering “dominant, explosive performances.”

However, a routine CT scan revealed “less healing than anticipated,” according to sources, which could sideline Embiid for the upcoming season. “As part of the conservative approach focused on the long-term health, recovery and care of Joel, we have been closely monitoring his progress, regularly evaluating his status and adjusting our plans accordingly,” said team president and general manager Sam Hinkie.

When Will Joel Embiid Return To Play?

Hinkie added, “Our priority remains providing Joel with every opportunity to ensure he has a long and successful NBA career, and as such, these findings cause us to pause and reassess his current activities.” They will continue to consult an experienced team of doctors, experts and specialists to determine the appropriate next steps, he said.

A timetable is still forthcoming, but fans are already assuming the worst. “Foot injuries like this on big men usually wind up at the top of a player’s basketball obit, not in the footnotes,” Chris Ryan writes for Grantland. “‘Joel Embiid came out of Kansas full of promise, drawing comparisons to some of the game’s greatest big men, but a foot injury derailed his career.” Nobody is going to be surprised if they read a story that starts that way in the next few years.”

Navicular Fractures & Issues With Healing

According to Podiatry Todaysurgical intervention leads to successful outcomes in 82% of all patients, but it remains a challenge for athletes to avoid weight-bearing activities long enough to avoid complications with healing. Though surgery is considered the optimal course of treatment for active individuals, pain is often reported for up to two years after the procedure. Furthermore, bone scans have been known to reveal abnormalities two years later as well.

This makes “conservative treatment” a challenge because it’s difficult for coaches (and even specialists) to know when it’s safe for players to proceed with weightbearing. If the 76ers are truly looking for a fully recuperated player on their roster, it’s very likely they would need him to sit the bench for yet another season — and probably take it easy with those “explosive” workouts, which can be just as damaging for a player’s recovery as a competitive game.

Foot Injury & Stress Fracture Treatment in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offers NY residents top-of-the-line stress fracture care. Our board-certified podiatric surgeons have all the tools necessary to diagnose, examine, treat and rehabilitate a navicular stress fracture like Joel Embiid has suffered. Our team is dedicated to achieving pain relief and providing an active, functional recovery. As sports medicine doctors, we understand the mental stress of nursing an injury for months on end. You’ll find our compassionate approach and friendly staff makes the entire healing process just a little bit easier. Contact us for help with your acute or chronic foot injury.



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.