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Blazers star CJ McCollum’s lung injury might not be as bad as feared

CJ McCollum, Blazers

When Shams Charania reported that Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum had a collapsed lung, fans were immediately scared. After all, a collapsed lung is an injury rarely seen in the NBA. The phrase “collapsed lung” also sounds incredibly terrifying. The mental image of a lung collapsing will send shivers down anyone’s spine.

What is a collapsed lung, and how does it affect CJ McCollum and the Blazers in the long-term? Well, for starters, here’s a simple definition of what happens when someone has a collapsed lung. (via MedLine Plus)

“A collapsed lung occurs when air escapes from the lung. The air then fills the space outside of the lung between the lung and chest wall. This buildup of air puts pressure on the lung, so it cannot expand as much as it normally does when you take a breath.”

There are many possible causes for a collapsed lung. It can happen spontaneously, or it can also be due to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) from a COVID-19 infection. In McCollum’s case, it’s likely that the Blazers guard suffered a collapsed lung due to an injury.

The most likely culprit with McCollum’s injury is a blow to the ribs, which was the case in Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski’s injury. Corroborating this theory is the Blazers’ earlier injury report that CJ McCollum suffered a rib contusion a few days ago against the Boston Celtics. It’s likely that this is the reason for McCollum’s collapsed lung.

So, the most important question: is it life-threatening? In most cases, no, not really. Depending on the severity of the injury, most people who’ve had cases of collapsed lungs recover on their own without treatment or surgery. In McCollum’s case, it’s likely that it’ll take a few weeks of rehab and getting into shape to get back into form. Earlier x-rays revealed no major damage to the ribs, so that’s also an encouraging sign for the Blazers.

As Jeff Stotts noted, the Blazers guard’s injury is something rarely seen in the NBA. Two notable players have missed some time with a collapsed lung: Terrence Jones in 2015 and Gerald Wallace in 2009. Both players came back to action around six or seven games later, which is roughly around one to two weeks.

Both Wallace and Jones came back to action in relatively peak form. It will take a while for McCollum to recover completely (in particular, his cardio will need to be worked on). However, based on anecdotal evidence and a few other NBA players who suffered this injury, it seems like the Blazers guard will be a-OK when he comes back.

Barring any unforeseen complications, CJ McCollum will come back without any major complications from his collapsed lung injury. That’s an encouraging sign for the Blazers, who are currently slumping in the Western Conference. The last thing they need is a serious injury to one of their key stars (and a potential trade chip for other talents, such as a certain disillusioned star in Philadelphia).