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New Orleans Pelicans

Expert medical analysis on the knee injury to Zion Williamson

The New Orleans Pelicans announced a recovery time of six to eight weeks for Zion Williamson following successful arthroscopic surgery to address a torn right lateral meniscus.

The injury comes on the heels of a dominant preseason in which the 19-year-old averaged 23.3 points per game on 71.4 percent shooting from the field, the most any rookie has averaged in the preseason since a 24-year-old David Robinson exploded onto the scene in 1989-90.

How that preseason dominance translates to the regular season will now have to wait.

MORE: How Zion dominated the preseason and what it means moving forward

This is the third knee injury he's sustained in less than a year. While at Duke, Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain in his right leg, the same knee currently injured. Back in July Williamson bumped his left knee nine minutes into his Summer League debut, causing the Pelicans to withhold him from any further Summer League action as a precaution. Williamson also sustained a knee injury prior to arriving at Duke. In the spring of 2017, he sustained a deep knee bruise that sidelined him for several weeks during the AAU circuit.

NBA.com reached out to Dr. Michael S. George, a sports orthopedic surgeon with the KSF Orthopaedic Center in Houston, to weigh in with an expert medical opinion on Williamson's injury based on publicly available information.

On the lateral meniscus itself:

"The lateral meniscus is the flexible C shaped cartilage in the lateral part of the knee that acts to cushion and absorb joint reactive forces in the knee."

On typical treatment for a torn lateral meniscus:

"When there is a tear of a healthy portion of the meniscus with good blood supply, the meniscus can be repaired with sutures and has a lengthy 4-6 month recovery.

"In cases when the meniscus cannot be repaired with sutures the torn portion is removed, leaving the remainder of the meniscus tissue in place. This is called a partial meniscectomy.

"Given that the Pelicans have estimated 6-8 week recovery, it would be assumed that he had a partial menisectomy."

On lingering effects of a partial menisectomy:

"In most cases losing a portion of the meniscus can leave the knee at risk for degenerative changes and arthritis over time."

On what other possibilities may exist:

"There is a different type of tear called a discoid lateral meniscus tear which is where there is an anatomic variation of the lateral meniscus where it a disk-shaped instead of C-shaped. In that situation, the inner portion is a high risk for tearing and the treatment is to remove the torn portion to achieve a more normal tissue volume, C shape and function.

"These tears typically have a more gradual onset instead of a single traumatic event and although the exact type of tear has not been reported this could possibly be the type of tear in Zion's case."

On what happens next and potential risk factors to consider:

"Regardless of the specific type of meniscus tear, it is always concerning when a player has multiple injuries in a short period of time particularly a young player. Williamson is 6'7 and 284 pounds but plays with the agility and aggression usually not seen in players his size and weight. He's actually the second-heaviest player in the league next to Dallas Mavericks 7'3" center Boban Marjanovic.

"This puts more stress on his knees and entire lower extremities than most players and has the potential to put him at increased risk for injury.

"Hopefully he will not have continued repeated injuries but if he does, it would be interesting to see how the Pelicans address his aggressive style of play going forward."

The New Orleans Pelicans open the season on October 22 on the road against the defending champions - the Toronto Raptors. Six weeks from opening day is December 3 while eight weeks out is December 17. According to that time frame, Williamson is expected to miss between 21 and 28 games.

MORE: The ripple effects of Zion's injury

Of the team's first 20 games, 16 come against teams that made the playoffs last season.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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