Our latest TikTok video looked at Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. and his ongoing management of ‘foot drop’. Before we dive deeper into what foot drop is, let’s look back at Porter Jr’s long medical history.
Coming out of high school, Porter Jr. was the projected first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, resulting in a loaded draft class with top players such as Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander going on to have an immediate impact in the league. Michael Porter Jr. fell to the Denver Nuggets on draft night at pick 14.
So what happened in a year for him to drop from the projected number 1 pick to pick 14?
Very early into his college career, Porter Jr. was struck with ongoing back pain, eventually leading to the diagnosis of herniated discs in his lower back. He quickly underwent a L3-L4 microdiscectomy in surgery to repair these issues. If it wasn’t already clear enough how serious this injury was at his age, here’s Dr Charla Fischer discussing his injury on SB Nation:
“One analogy we use a lot is when you poke a hole in a jelly doughnut. When you squeeze, the jelly is going to come out. If you don’t poke a hole, it will be contained. Genetics plays a small role, but over time everyone’s disks deflate like a tire getting worn down. In some athletes, if stress is transferred to an area … it’s a repetitive stress injury. Over and over, jumping up to catch rebounds, you’re getting stressed in one area. Then you get these micro-tears, and the nucleus pulposus (jelly) comes out.”
In the lead-up to the 2018 NBA Draft, John Hollinger (former Vice-President of Basketball Operations at the Memphis Grizzlies) called his medical report the worst he’s ever seen.
The answer to the question of why he fell to pick 14 revolved around his injury status.
Coming into his 5th season, Porter Jr. has only played 129 games (each season has 82 games + playoffs) and has required an additional two back surgeries.
You may be thinking, what does this have to do with podiatry?
In 2019, Porter Jr. made his debut in the NBA and unveiled a unique-looking brace.
This is called an ‘Ankle Foot Orthosis” (type of orthotics) and is commonly used for a condition called ‘foot drop”. As a result of ongoing pressure and required surgeries in his lower back, Porter Jr. developed foot drop due to damage to his peroneal nerve. The peroneal nerve innervates the lower limb’s anterior compartment and is responsible for the foot’s dorsiflexion (pulling the foot upwards).
This brace wraps around his posterior leg and involves a plate that sits underneath his foot in his shoe. The design of the brace is to hold his foot in dorsiflexion and reduce the amount of plantarflexion of his left foot.
Porter Jr. began wearing the brace in 2019 and is still wearing the brace as the 2022 season begins indicating this may be something he has to wear for the rest of his career. The nerve may slowly start to function normally again and regain full strength and coordination of the muscle, but they will take no chances until it does.
Despite all of Michael Porter Jr’s injury concerns, in 2021, he signed a $207 million max contract extension over the following five seasons, making him one of the highest-paid players in the league.