Markelle Fultz Diagnosed with Nerve Injury in Shooting Shoulder

December 5, 2018 | insideinjuries | No Comments

Despite getting off to what looked like a good start, this season is starting to look like an exact replica of last season for Markelle Fultz. Though it looks like Fultz and his team have finally gotten to the root of his shooting problem, it’s taken over a year to get there. Below is an abbreviated timeline of Fultz’ shoulder problems over the past 15 months.

  • September 2017 – Trainers blame Fultz’ troubled shot on a change in mechanics.
  • October 2017 – Fultz’ agent, Raymond Brothers, tells media that Fultz had a cortisone shot in his shoulder to help alleviate discomfort.
  • October 2017 – Sixers rule Fultz out indefinitely with scapular muscle imbalance.
  • March 2018 – Fultz finally returns to action.
  • November 2018 – It was obvious that Fultz was still having trouble with his shot. Fultz’ trainer admits Fultz is still not completely healthy.
  • November 2018 – Brothers requests that Fultz meet with a shoulder specialist before he continue playing.
  • November 2018 – Fultz is also diagnosed with a right wrist injury.
  • December 2018 – Fultz is ruled out indefinitely with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

As of December 3, 2018, Fultz has been diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and will be training in physical therapy until further notice. The Sixers released the following announcement earlier this week:

“Markelle Fultz has recently completed a thorough series of consultations with specialists across several different disciplines. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which involves compression or irritation in the thoracic outlet (area between lower neck and upper chest), was identified.

Physical therapy was recommended for Fultz before returning to play.”

TOS is a severe injury that affects the nerves between the lower neck, shoulder, and upper chest. It results in abnormal function in the area and hinders the movement and range of motion of the shoulder. All of the symptoms caused by TOS seem to be present in Fultz and could easily explain his inability to shoot. Our biggest questions are how long has Fultz been dealing with this nerve injury, and why did it take so long to diagnose?

If Fultz has been suffering from TOS since the start of his rookie season, then severe damage has already been done. Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting a 3-6 week recovery timetable, but that timelines is way too short according to our metrics. The Inside Injuries algorithm is calculating an Optimal Recovery Time that is measured in months, not weeks. It will take 3-4 months for Fultz to completely recover from TOS, which puts his possible return in March. This is almost the exact same amount of time Fultz missed last year after being diagnosed with scapular imbalance.

It’s possible Fultz was dealing with all of the other diagnoses that have been reported, but TOS explains virtually all of his symptoms. TOS is generally caused by either a traumatic event/injury to the area or by repeated injuries caused by athletic activity. Some rumors are buzzing that Fultz’ motorcycle accident a few years ago could have caused the nerve injury, but those reports are unsubstantiated. TOS most commonly affects MLB player, especially pitchers. In severe cases, TOS can requires surgery, but the nerve injury can usually be treated with physical therapy. Fultz’ long history with right shoulder problems puts his recovery timeline up in the air, but we don’t expect to see him back on the court until Spring of 2019.