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Could, Should, and WILL John Wall Play Again This Postseason?

As of this moment, John Wall has still not been ruled out for the season, or even the Atlanta Hawks series. His status is still “uncertain.” Here’s what we know:

  • John Wall is tough as sh#&!
  • John Wall is competitive as sh#&!
  • John Wall often uses his left-hand.
  • John Wall has FIVE non-displaced fractures in his left hand.

So the questions arises: Could John Wall play? Should John Wall play? Will John Wall play?

Non-Displaced Fractures:

Non-displaced fractures vary in degree and severity. What makes a non-displaced fracture “good” however, is it’s stability and healing process. In a non-displaced bone break, the bone parts remain aligned in their proper orientation. In Wall’s case, we don’t know the details about each of the five fractures. They could involve breaks in which the bones broke fully but remained aligned, or they could be breaks where the bone is just “cracked.”

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In both cases, because the bone alignment and stability is intact, the bones are able to heal without surgery. The hand could be placed in a cast, rested, and allowed to heal, and result in a full, successful healing process. We hear about athletes breaking various bones fairly regularly, and often times surgery is not required. We’ve even seen football players play in full hand and forearm casts, while they’re still in the healing process.


Important note: We’ve seen defensive players like pass rushers do this. Wide receivers, quarterbacks, and guys that really need to functionally use both hands? Not so much. Point guards need to functionally use both hands. Pretty sure Wall wouldn’t be functional with that Clay Matthews cast above.

Displaced fractures:

Displaced fractures also vary in degree and severity. What makes a displaced fracture “bad” however, is it’s lack of stability and loss of the correct bone orientation. In order for a displaced fracture to heal properly, the bone must first be re-aligned to its proper orientation, and held in place while the healing process occurs. How do you re-align the bone and hold it in place? Surgery.

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Plates and screws are used to hold the bone in correct alignment, and then the healing process occurs. Hypothetically, the bones, plates, and screws are all “stable” once surgery is complete, but care and protection must still be given. Think Mike Conley. Conley just had facial surgery, and missed only one game of the Grizzlies second round series. However, Conley is still wearing a protective mask, a mask that has been determined to allow him to function while still protecting him from re-injury.


This re-injury, or further damage, is the critical factor in John Wall’s situation. Based on all reports so far, Wall currently has only non-displaced fractures, and does not require surgery. However, as long as the bones are not healed, Wall is at potential risk for further damage, by another freak fall or a random collision, etc., and the non-displaced fractures, depending on the severity, could become displaced fractures. Displaced fractures could require surgery. You know what else had surgery? Kevin Durant’s foot.

So, COULD Wall play? Probably. He could be fitted with a protective contraption (the hand equivalent of Conley’s mask), and give it a go. However, the “contraption” itself would then be the big issue. Could he be fit with something safe enough to truly assure his hand is protected from further damage, while still maintaining his functionality? Obviously, a point guard can’t play with a cast on his left hand. Wall COULD play with just a little medical tape wrap, but obviously, that would be ludicrous. So the answer would have to be something in between. Something that allows function, but GUARANTEES that no further and potentially long-term damage will be done.

Should Wall play? Probably not. From the description of the injury, and the crazy resulting swelling, it’s hard to imagine anything Wall could wear that would allow him to use his left hand in any functional way, while still providing complete protection. And in this case, if complete protection isn’t provided, playing should not even be an option. Remember, Conley’s injury is different in two ways. First, he ALREADY HAD surgery, so the plates and screws are already providing a degree of internal stabilization, while the mask is providing an additional layer of protection. Second, you don’t dribble, pass, shoot, defend or break a fall with your face.

Will Wall play? Who knows. From all accounts we’ve heard about Wall’s toughness, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t find a way to at least try to play, but I’d be surprised if the Wizards let him. Playing through pain isn’t going to be an issue. Wall will do that with no hesitation. And if the medical team can fix him with some type of brace that provides him “sufficient” protection, and allows him to maintain functional ball handling, my guess is he’d take it, and play. But what is “sufficient?” Do we really want our franchise point guard strapping on a light-weight brace and someone saying, “this will be good. Just be careful. Don’t fall or get hit.” Careful and passive just isn’t how John Wall plays basketball.

Just know this about John Wall. If it’s possible, by any means, for him to get out there and play something resembling basketball, he’s going to do it. He’s going to do it for his teammates, his organization, and his city.

That should give us all a glimmer of hope. But it should also give us all a feeling of fear and pause. Because for everything he’s given us, and feels like he “owe’s” to his teammates and fans, and as much as we love the Wizards, and as much as we want to see Wall play, what we should all really want is what’s best for John Wall, even if it means suiting up in Sean John instead of the #2 red, white, and blue. We owe him that.

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