blake griffin
Blake Griffin's left knee has a bad injury history.

Blake Griffin, the power forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, had to leave during the match against the Lakers on Monday night because of a knee injury. For Griffin, the injury is the yet another blow; since the 2013-14 season, he has had to forego playing in more than 67 games, largely because of injuries.

In fact, the same knee — the left knee — which he hurt in the game against the Lakers has a rather bad injury history. This includes a knee bone bruise, a meniscus tear, a broken kneecap, a strained hamstring and also a partially torn quad. Not surprisingly perhaps, multiple surgeries have been performed on Griffin's left knee.

While more details of the injury and its long-term repercussions are yet to come, the fact that injuries like this could hamper players’ progress — not just in a particular game but in their career as a whole — is a cause of worry. And due to the nature of the game, knees are particularly vulnerable in the National Basketball Association.

In 2012, for instance, back when the Knicks were still a respected team, Baron Davis was among their main players. That year, they made it to playoffs where they had to face Miami Heat — who would go on to become the champions. In the game, Davis took hold of a rebound and ran up the court. But when he attempted to take the shot, just as his arms were extended, Davis’ knees buckled beneath him and he went down. At first, the injury didn’t look too bad. But the knee buckled inward even as his foot remained planted on court, and the injury turned out to be really bad. So much so that it almost spelled the end of Davis’ NBA career.

Another serious knee injury happened to Shaun Livingston when he was playing for the Clippers. The Clippers were playing the Bobcats and Livingston tried for a dunk against Gerald Green in a routine manner. Unfortunately, Shaun Livingston came down performing a split, doing which his left knee snapped. The injury — which had him screaming in pain — resulted in torn anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate. He also suffered collateral ligaments and dislocated a kneecap. Over the next two seasons, Livingston played just 12 games.

So, what makes the human knee so vulnerable to such injuries?

To begin with, the knee is among the most complex joints in the entire human body. And the sheer complexity heightens the chance of complicated problems with any injuries. The knee connects the femur (thigh bone) with the tibia (shin bone). Also part of the knee joint is the smaller bone that runs by the patella (kneecap) and the tibia. But the full complexity of the joint comes into picture only when you look at the mechanisms involved in keeping it functional.

For instance, the anterior cruciate ligament keeps the thigh bone from sliding back to the shin bone and also the shin bone from sliding onward to the thigh bone. The posterior cruciate ligament, meanwhile, keeps the thigh bone from sliding onward to the tibia and keeps the shin bone from sliding back to the thigh bone. Then, there are the lateral and medial collateral ligaments that keep the thigh bone from sliding side by side.

Then, there is the patella itself, popularly known as the kneecap. This bone not just articulates with the thigh bone, it also covers the knee joint’s anterior articular surface. Patella is the largest sesamoid bone in the human body (sesamoid bone refers to any bone that’s embedded inside a muscle or a tendon). This is to say that the patella is a significant fixture inside your body. Also, the way the patella fits inside the socket is sublime, to say the least, and when any problem makes it slip out of the socket, it is called patellar instability, or colloquially, knee dislocation.

You can imagine this as the biological equivalent of a unit with pistons and cogs in a machine, one which is highly intricate and that requires high levels of precision. So, it is easy to see how an injury to one part could disrupt the whole mechanism. And when the injury gets inflicted on a professional basketball court, the effects could be drastic.

Hopefully, Griffin’s latest injury would not be so bad.