In a disheartening turn of events for Purdue basketball, Robbie Hummel's back problems have come to a head once again.
After playing the past two games, the Boilermaker sophomore forward and Big Ten Preseason Player-of-the-Year has discovered via further examination that the fracture in the L5 vertebra has worsened, and thus, his availability for the rest of the season - beginning with Saturday's game against Indiana - is unknown.
Purdue is 1-3 without Hummel this season, with the losses coming at Penn State (Jan. 6), Ohio State and Illinois. The Boilermakers' lone win in the four games they've played without the 6-foot-8 forward was its home win over Penn State.
After sitting out three games from Feb. 3-11, Hummel returned to the floor for Purdue's win at Iowa last weekend, then started the Boilermakers' emphatic win over league-leading Michigan State Tuesday night.
Hummel's condition was originally diagnosed to be a hairline fracture of the vertebra, which he's been told has existed since high school.
He's been playing and practicing with a rigid brace around his torso to protect the back.
As of Thursday afternoon, Hummel was optimistic, saying that he's felt lately as healthy as he has in weeks.
"I remember that in the Michigan game (Jan. 31), I couldn't run and I could barely jump," Hummel said prior to Thursday's practice. "I remember telling, I think, Coach (Paul) Lusk, 'I'm not even going to try to rebound; I'm just going to box out,' because I didn't feel like I could jump and get rebounds.
"But it went from that to the point where I could do those things again and go out there and play."
After the Michigan State game, in which he played 25 minutes in the 72-54 win, spoke in positive terms of his condition.
"It's a drastic improvement from where I was," Hummel said after the game, in which he scored 11 points, with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. "I wore the (back) brace. I'll keep that on and hopefully it'll improve. I'm not hurting at all. I felt like I could move again and be semi-athletic."
Hummel did not practice Friday.