Milwaukee Bucks: Worst injuries in franchise history

MILWAUKEE, WI - JANUARY 02: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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MILWAUKEE – MARCH 13: (Photo By Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
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2. T.J. Ford – (2003-04)

Injury – Spinal Cord Contusion

Of all of the injuries discussed in this list, there is one injury which is set apart from all the others as a “life-altering” injury.

In 2003-04, T.J. Ford was enjoying a stellar rookie season in the NBA. He was averaging 7.1 points per game, while leading the Bucks with 6.5 assists per game. Ford would eventually be rewarded for his efforts in a fine season, in the way of selection into the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Many Bucks fans were excited at the young pairing of Ford and Michael Redd, as Milwaukee looked to rebuild, following the loss of the “Big Three”.

Then in February 2004, in a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ford injured himself in a way not often seen on any sporting field. While going up for a contested shot, Ford was fouled and proceeded to fall towards the floor in an awkward position. He landed straight onto his tail bone with all his weight going through the region. Ford was then unable to get up, he had lost total sensation in his legs.

Ford was diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion, which essentially means a bruised spinal cord. This can mean many things depending on the severity of bruise. In some cases, it can just mean pain in the region. While in many other cases, including Ford’s, it can lead to an indefinite loss of sensation in your limbs.

This was the second time Ford has injured his spine, as in 2003, while still in College, Ford was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is essentially a narrowing of the spinal column around the spinal cord. In a worst case scenario, it can lead to a total loss of sensation in your limbs. In isolation, a stenosis can often be dealt with without surgery, but when Ford landed heavily on the region, the bruising suffered was more severe than would normally be expected. As a result, most doctors were unsure if he would be able to even run again, let alone be back on the NBA court.

Ford missed the rest of the 2003-04 season and the entirety of the 2004-05 season, thanks to spinal fusion surgery, in order to repair his tail bone. Against all medical advice, Ford began training with fellow NBA players Damon Stoudamire and Sam Cassell in his local junior center in Houston, Texas. Along with this, he employed the help of former NBA player Damon Lucas to oversee his rehabilitation and help him retrain his basketball stamina, strength and shooting.

Against all medical models and expectations, Ford was able to return the following year and post the very respectable stat line of 12.2 points, 6.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in 72 regular season matches. Ford was however traded away from the Bucks the following season and spent a further six seasons in the NBA.

Ford was able to forge a respectable career in the NBA against all medical advice and expectations and should be applauded for his determination to make it back to the league. The very nature of his injury however followed him throughout his time in the NBA, having suffered several further neural/nerve injuries in his time with Toronto and San Antonio.

Any time the spinal cord is affected, the utmost management and care must be taken for that patient. Neural damage can be permanent and quite frankly, Ford was lucky to be able to walk again, let alone continue his career in the manner he did.