There might be a lingering medical reason for the continued shooting struggles of Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick has been diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, according to Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers (via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski).
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when “blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) are compressed,” according to the Mayo Clinic. It is rare, with fewer than 200,000 cases occurring per year. The neurogenic, or neurological, form is characterized by a compression of the brachial plexus, “a network of nerves that come from your spinal cord and control muscle movements and sensation in your shoulder, arm and hand.”
The condition can be caused by anatomical defects, trauma repetitive activity or other action that put pressure on the nerves or veins in the shoulder and collarbone region.
“TOS affects nerves between the neck and shoulder resulting in abnormal functional movement and range of motion, thus severely limiting Markelle’s ability to shoot a basketball,” Brothers said.
The Sixers said Fultz is out “indefinitely” while undergoing treatment. Wojnarowski reported his return could come in three to six weeks. He’s already missed six games this season and hasn’t played since Nov. 19.
He was averaging 8.2 points per game on 41.9 percent shooting before his absence. He also was struggling at the free throw line, shooting 56.8 percent. His constantly changing shooting form, including a period where he purposefully double-clutched foul shots and another where he seemingly juggled the ball before taking a shot, has drawn jeers from onlookers, including from Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper, who mocked the form in a touchdown celebration on Thanksgiving.
When Philadelphia drafted Fultz in 2017 out of the University of Washington, he was thought to be a key piece of “The Process,” in which the team offloaded its competitive but aging nucleus and played several seasons of noncompetitive basketball to earn the right to draft a young core.
But while Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have flourished, Fultz has been unable to conquer injury concerns and persistent yips with his shot, making him a liability at times in the Sixers’ rotation. In November, the team traded four players, including two starters, and a 2022 draft pick for Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler to add a more sure offensive option to the starting five.
Since the Butler’s addition, Philadelphia is 9-2 and Fultz has only appeared in four games.
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