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Understanding Jaxson Hayes’ UCL injury

Preseason Game #3: Pelicans vs Spurs

New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans are bringing a perfect preseason record into Sunday evening’s matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.

To be honest though, the wins and losses during exhibition play matter so very little. Ask any head coach and he’ll tell you that getting to the start of the regular season unscathed is vastly more important.

That’s why yesterday’s announcement of Jaxson Hayes suffering a torn UCL in Friday’s win over the Pistons has put a damper on the rest of this preseason.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that center Jaxson Hayes sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his left elbow (non-dominant) during last night’s preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Hayes will undergo rehabilitation for the injury and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Hayes could miss a significant portion of the 2022-23 campaign. The same injury sidelined Paul George for nearly 100 days last season, causing him to miss 43 games for the Clippers.

Hayes is the team’s best rim runner. He also offers the most defensive potential, being able to guard all five positions when necessary while defending the rim area with incredible agility and athleticism.

Truth be told, he was looking outstanding on that side of the ball prior to the injury, so how many games could Hayes realistically miss?

According to Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes, the average number of games missed was about a quarter of the season prior to George’s injury, and it was less for Grade 2 sprains.

The UCL sits on medial (inside area) of the elbow. UCL injuries are a common occurrence in Major League Baseball, particularly with pitchers. The procedure known as Tommy John surgery is utilized to reconstruct the ligament. The location of the UCL makes it vulnerable with overhead motion, which is why pitchers are so susceptible to the injury. However, this motion is not a normal motion for basketball player, contributing to the low frequency in the NBA. Notable NBA players to suffer the injury include Batum, Evan Fournier, Andrea Bargnani, and Jimmy Butler.

The average number of missed games for confirmed UCL sprains in the NBA is about 20 games. The number shrinks to 13 games (~28 days) for players that reported Grade 2 (partial tear) sprains. Butler, who suffered a Grade 2 sprain with bone impaction, made the quickest recovery, returning in 11 games (22 days) during the 2014-15 season. Surgery was not needed in any of the examined cases.

Let’s hope that Hayes didn’t suffer a serious tear of his UCL ligament.

Among the other players battling ailments, CJ McCollum (questionable with right ankle soreness) is not expected to play after missing yesterday’s practice. However, Brandon Ingram (questionable with left fifth toe soreness) went through parts of practice and Herb Jones (questionable with a rib contusion) was able to participate in all activities.

In other news, the Spurs will host a large contingent of residents of Uvalde for today’s game.

The Spurs will also host over 1,000 Uvalde residents as special guests at their Sunday night game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (2-0) vs San Antonio Spurs (0-2)

When: October 9, 2022, 6:00 p.m. CT

Where to watch: (for local viewers only), Spurs App (San Antonio area)

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.