Ben Simmons’ latest back injury has potential for repeated flare-ups: specialist

MIAMI — From the moment The Post first broke the news that Ben Simmons was suffering from more nerve irritation in his back, fans immediately wondered if this was going to be as severe as his last back injury.

The answer is no.

It’s a different issue, in a different area and seen as minor.

He should be practicing in a week (or two), and playing in another week or so after that.

But a specialist who spoke with The Post said that’s asking the wrong question.

The right one to ponder going forward isn’t how major or how minor, but how often?

“Absolutely [it’s short term]. One-to-two weeks, he’s fine. He’s back rehabbing. He’ll be back [playing] in three-to-four weeks. Max, six weeks,” Dr. Neel Anand told The Post before the Nets’ 122-115 loss to the Heat on Wednesday night. “He’ll do rehab and be right back to where it was.

Ben Simmons latest back injury has a chance to flare up again after he returns, according to a specialist.
Ben Simmons latest back injury has a chance to flare up again after he returns, according to a specialist.
NBAE via Getty Images

“Does he have any more flare-ups? That’s going to be the question. How many more flare-ups is he going to have? That is a bigger question than anything else. And that’s so hard to predict. … Some guys get repeated flare-ups, and others don’t get it, they’re fine. … That’s hard to predict.”

For the Nets and Simmons, it’s the $78 million question, the amount they’ll pay him this season and next.

Getting the only All-Star on the roster right and keeping him right is top priority.

“He’s obviously a significant portion to the Brooklyn Nets,” Simmons’ agent Bernie Lee told The Post. “He and the Nets remain on the same page to continue to work hand-in-hand to help him fulfill the requirements the Nets have for him and help him to continue to be a really positive member of the team.”

Rest — and presumably accompanying anti-inflammatories — should help Simmons get back in short order. Simmons has said maintenance will be vital going forward, that he’s concentrating on flexibility and core strength.

“You get these flare-ups. I always tell people it’s about the question, how many flare-ups have you got, and how often they are and how long they last? If the last one is six months, no big deal: Take an anti-inflammatory and get on with life,” Anand told The Post. “If it happens every few weeks, that’s a big deal. But unfortunately, nobody can predict that: That’s the problem. All we can do is hope.”

Ben Simmons sits on the bench during the Nets' win over the Wizards on Nov. 12.
Ben Simmons sits on the bench during the Nets’ Nov. 12 win over the Wizards.
NBAE via Getty Images

Anand is an orthopedic spine surgeon and medical director of the Anand Spine Group in Los Angeles.

He provided context, saying the latest nerve irritation on the left likely isn’t a new major herniation.

But just because it’s not a big problem doesn’t mean it’s not one to watch for down the road.

“Again, low back. All that means is this disk is not great. Once you’ve had a disk problem, whether it be a tear, a disk herniation — which is what he had before — that disk is not normal anymore, so it’s not unusual to get another tear or a small thing that flares up again,” Anand told The Post. “The question is, is this new episode another major disk herniation, or just a little flare-up which can be settled down?

“It’s like your car tire. You get a tire, you patch the hole and you’re fine and you drive your car. That tire could blow up again, get another tear, or it could run another 10 years. That’s the issue; that tire is not normal anymore. You patched the tire; that’s all you’ve done. And that’s what the surgery we do for micro decompression — which is what he probably had — is. But the actual disk is not the same anymore. So you can get other tears.

“What’s important is the MRI didn’t show a large disk herniation pushing on his nerves or something big. … [Reports say] he doesn’t need surgery, so based on that I’m going to assume he does not have a big disk herniation. He’s got a small tear that’s flared up. Anti-inflammatories settle it down 90-95 percent of the time. Now, can it happen again? That’s a $1 million question. The answer’s yes; the question is when? Nobody can predict. [Or] he could play for years. Nobody can predict that.”