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How old is Bismack Biyombo? A doctor explains how accurately the wrist test could determine Biyombo’s age

How old is the hottest prospect in the NBA Draft, Bismack Biyombo?

David Aldridge took a stab at answering the question that could make the difference between Biyombo getting picked in the top-five and in the second round:

Biyombo says he’s 18, but as Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen wrote over the weekend, NBA scouts and executives aren’t 100 percent sure, and Biyombo wouldn’t talk about it when asked.

"Question of the week here!," a team scouting director texted Sunday night. "No way to know for sure. I’m guessing he’s 21 or 22."

If that’s the case, it won’t be a big deal and Biyombo will go in the first round for sure. But an Eastern Conference GM said he heard rumors that Biyombo was anywhere from 23 to 26, which would obviously be a much different deal.

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express followed Aldridge’s reporting with more of his own:

Our research has revealed some slightly different information. Coaches who have worked with Biyombo earlier in his career while he was still in Congo think he’s “no older than 20 at most,” while Biyombo’s agent, Igor Crespo, has evidence that proves Biyombo is even younger.

Crespo says he took Biyombo to a specialist to conduct a bone age study immediately upon his arrival in Spain (Biyombo was reportedly 16). The study, as explained here involves taking x-rays of an adolescent’s wrist and hand to see if his growth plates are still open. Because the cartilage in Biyombo’s hand hadn’t fused at that point, the specialist came to the conclusion that he could be 16 or 17 at most, but not 18, when growth plates are expected to be closed.

This obviously rules out the possibility of Biyombo being five to eight years older than he’s listed, as the wild speculation we’ve seen recently on the Internet indicates. Crespo says he will willingly share these x-rays with any NBA team that requests them. One team we spoke with has already begun to evaluate the x-rays.

Doctor explains Bismack Biyombo’s age-determining wrist test

I talked to Dr. Ben Wedro, whom you might remember from his explanation of DeJuan Blair’s lack of ACLs, about how Biyombo’s alleged wrist test works. Wedro – read his blog and follow him on Twitter – said:

Bones in the body calcify at times. There are age ranges when bones in the body can be seen on x-ray. Similarly, there are age ranges when growth plates close. There are a variety of radiology textbooks that are used as reference guides to compare a patient’s x-ray with the book’s “norm”.

Aside from your situation, bone age is useful in determining when a patient enters puberty, perhaps trying to determine ultimate height and how much time there is left for a patient to grow.

The wrist is useful because there are many bones present that calcify at different and predictable times. However, once all the bones have developed and the growth plates closed, the concept of bone age is no longer useful.

There are some blood tests available that can help forensic pathologists try to roughly determine a patient’s age but it is only accurate to nine years  plus or minus.

That blood test obviously wouldn’t help here, so it looks like the wrist test is the best bet. I followed up with Wedro, asking his opinion of the test and whether there was a way to determine the x-ray showed Biyombo’s wrist, not someone else’s. I don’t know who’s seen the x-ray in the last two years, but I’d guess his professional teams have. So, it might not be too difficult to verify NBA teams are receiving the same x-ray taken that was taken two years ago. But how accurate is the test, and what if Crespo used a younger wrist-double in the first place? Wedro:

The wrist x ray would be reasonable accurate in estimating age.

The second question is harder. First, for what reason was an x ray taken two years ago? Was it for an injury or for another reason. Second, in most developed countries. A paper trail would be present that would link the patient to an x ray and its report. I do not know whether record keeping would be as precise as what we would expect to be normal in North America.

I explained that the x-ray was taken to determine his age, not because of an injury. With millions of dollars at stake, it wouldn’t shock me to hear Crespo used someone younger to imitate Biyombo. Wedro:

Unless there was something distinctive about one of the bones, like if there was a previous break that healed poorly, it might be difficult to make a definitive statement.

In the US, the paper trail might include a physician order, a radiology reading report, a bill for the services and they all would have identifying information like a name, birthdate, medical record number, address, etc.

So, unless Biyombo has a distinctive mark on his bones, which might cause a whole new set of issues, this probably comes down to how much you trust Spanish medical records, Crespo and Biyombo.

21 Comments

  • Apr 26, 20111:31 pm
    by Jacob

    Reply

    This is fascinating to me. I guess that’s what happens when you’re born in the Congo and birth records are not kept as accurately as they are here. This would not be an issue if people didn’t see his enormous ceiling. They’re wondering if its too good to be true that and 18 year old could be this good. In this day with medical advances there has got to be a better way to get an accurate estimate of someone’s age – blood profiles, dna testing? I don’t know. Keep us posted as this story develops.

  • Apr 26, 20113:21 pm
    by sop

    Reply

    How about a polygraph?

  • Apr 27, 20111:52 am
    by dartbrooks

    Reply

    how large of an area does the x-ray cover?  he is 6’9″ with a 7’7″ wingspan.  his forearm would be longer than just about anybody on the planet.  wouldn’t that be distinctive enough to prove it was his x-ray?

  • Apr 27, 201112:01 pm
    by Brian

    Reply

    “Crespo says he took Biyombo to a specialist to conduct a bone age study immediately upon his arrival in Spain”


    Guessing Spain keeps better medical records than northern africa…

  • Apr 27, 20111:20 pm
    by tommy t

    Reply

    Mutombo was something like 85 when he retired.  I doubt that a year or two would make much difference.

  • Apr 27, 20115:53 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    This is our guy, people. Check the youtube footage from the Nike Portsmouth Classic.
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUxKzucNsTo&feature=player_embedded

  • [...] Fuente PistonPowered [...]

  • Apr 28, 20111:52 am
    by rainmaker

    Reply

    As long as he can play, age won’t matter much.  I have seen 18 year olds who flopped and 23 yr olds who became good players. Winning is everything!

    • Apr 29, 20112:13 am
      by robotboy15

      Reply

      Yeah, but the problem is, of course, that if he really is 25, then he’s still raw while approaching his physical peak.  Not to say that he won’t be good or very good (I have no idea–never even seen a youtube clip), but that this dream of an incredibly mature, incredibly smart, incredibly physically imposing and domaninant force who is only 18 isn’t the same as that involving a guy half a decade older.

  • Apr 28, 20115:10 pm
    by faininchitown

    Reply

    And Joe Louis was 125 years old when he fought Rocky Marciano

  • Apr 29, 20111:24 pm
    by vic

    Reply

    i think he’s closer to 30… you can tell by looking at his eyes. I would’n't draft him

  • [...] raw, but seems to be highly effective once in dunk range.  Some mild controversy has been had over Bismack’s age, but if it proves to be 19 as reported, Biyombo could turn out to be the steal of the draft.  [...]

  • [...] raw, but seems to be highly effective once in dunk range.  Some mild controversy has been had over Bismack’s age, but if it proves to be 19 as reported, Biyombo could turn out to be the steal of the draft.  [...]

  • [...] scout or executive in the world.  Literally, nobody knows anything else about him.  Even his age (supposedly 18) is in question.  So you have to love that Charlotte spent the 7th pick (and a mult-million [...]

  • [...] and Biyambo is just far too raw.  And, I mean, how high a grade can a team get who has no idea how old its 1st round pick is?  Final Grade: C+ (plus or minus 2 [...]

  • Jul 15, 20118:41 pm
    by M. Jimmy

    Reply

    this has been ridiculous who could believe that  Greg Oden was 19 yrs when he was drafted in 2007? It could not be doubted because he was born in America. the boy was already look like is 30yrs old in age of 19. even Jimmy was making funny of him when Greg Oden was invited in jimmy kimmel’s show. compare Bismack biyombo with Greg Gordon, when Greg Gordon was drafted who face look older? my point is the people grow is different some people they are old but their look younger, others they look other than their normal age.

  • [...] 18 years old, the works. The reality is that it’s unclear how old he is, though he’s probably in normal draft pick range. Then there were rumors that he was still under contract with his Spanish team and might not be [...]

  • Dec 21, 20116:16 pm
    by Duh

    Reply

    try a lying detector…idk

  • [...] The Better: Triz on Fausto Carmona: The Real Moneyball On the surface, the story about Fausto Carmona changing his identity and lying about his age to get a work visa sounds absurdist, but not too far below that surface is the sad story explaining why he had to do it. While this is currently a bigger problem in Major League Baseball, expect this to become a more common story in the NBA as the Association continues to expand out and attract more foreign players. Case in point: Bismack Biyombo. [...]

  • […] he’s a two-Bismark and a coffee guy. There’s also an interesting Rafael-Furcal-like age concern cloud around Biyombo. Is he 16? 30? Who knows?! Before we depart the Biyombo section of this post, […]

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