It was the pop heard 'round Los Angeles on Friday night as the Lakers star point guard Kobe Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon injury, benching him for the rest of the season with an estimated recover period of 6-9 months.
The team is currently a a game away from making the playoffs, after struggling through a drama-filled season that included the firing of coach Mike Brown and the hiring of Mike D'Antoni. If the Utah Jazz lose tonight in Minnesota, the Lakers are in, regardless of what happens in their regular season finale Wednesday in Staples Center. But they'll have to move forward without Bryant.
This isn't the first time Bryant has been out with an injury, he's suffered sprained ankles on multiple occasions, but it is by far the most serious. But why? What makes a torn Achilles so debilitating for a professional basketball player?
"The Achilles tendon allows you to jump, allows you to walk, and they're made up of two calf muscles," said Dr. Robert Klapper, chief orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai and host of The Weekend Warrior show on ESPNLA 710. "The reason this is important is, when Kobe Bryant snapped his tendon, it's like a bungee cord, these two muscles contract and create a gap between the tendon. The problem with that is when he tries to straighten his knee, he's actually going to be pulling on the repair that he had done."
So what's ahead for Bryant? Dr. Klapper breaks it down in four phases:
"Phase I you must calm everything down to heal the wound. Phase II, the tendon that you're sewing back together again has got to heal, that takes time and that's why he's on crutches, protecting him from putting all his weight on it, that's going to be 4-6 weeks. Once it's mended, then you begin the third phase, range of motion exercises, allowing him to put more weight on it. The ultimate thing is strength, that's the X factor. You and I, 9 months, a year. Kobe Bryant 5-6 months."
David Beckham suffered the same injury in 2010, but returned to the game after 5 months. Can Bryant do the same?
Dr. Klapper says the surgery Bryant will have to correct this injury may actually end up helping his chronic ankle issues. Though it is unlikely that he'll be the same Kobe Bryant we're used to.
"I believe the benefit will be that this surgery with ultimately help stability of his whole ankle," said Dr. Klapper. "He will bounce back, but in my opinion he will be 5-10 percent of the Kobe Bryant that we saw before. As a surgeon, I can work on Mother Nature, but I cannot work on father time."