Dwight Howard tried to play through a torn labrum—and it backfired.
It was always a long shot, but it took only a handful of games before precisely the type of situation that Howard had to avoid occurred. Reaching up for a rebound, Howard's arm was forcefully pulled away from his body, putting more pressure on his torn cartilage and making him double over in pain.
The latest out of Los Angeles is that Howard is seeing a sports medicine specialist for a non-surgical procedure. His status remains day-to-day while the Lakers medical staff tries to determine the next step.
What are the best- and worst-case scenarios?
If Howard does try to play through it, he'll be subject to re-injury once more. The best-case scenario is that the Lakers limit his play and he somehow avoids further harm.
The big man will not be able to outmuscle his counterparts like he is accustomed to, and may be more timid on both ends of the floor. That said, he could still provide a boost in the middle, where Los Angeles is already thin after losing backup big man Jordan Hill.
The Lakers will likely have to play him with certain restrictions. Their schedule and his comfort level will decide what exactly those limitations entail.
If they're smart, they will rest their superstar center until after the All-Star break. At that point, Howard would test the arm out again, hoping that it's ready for in-game action.
The worst case is that Dwight Howard will need immediate surgery to repair the labrum, effectively ending his season.
There's no question that Howard is going to need surgery at some point, but he and the medical staff will have to determine whether he can wait to have it after the season is over, or if he needs to have it immediately.
No matter which route he takes, Howard's value on the open market is sure to take a dive.
Fortunately, the Lakers do have excellent surgeons, using the world-renowned Kerlan-Jobe Clinic.
Anatomy and Tolerating Pain
The labrum is a piece of cartilage that has two major functions. First, it helps hold the arm in the shoulder. Second, it functions as a cushion between the bony areas.
This type of injury is more often seen in throwing athletes like baseball pitchers, but the type of action that re-injured Howard can also result in damage to the labrum.
Another issue to consider is that while Howard looks like a physical monster on the floor, he is human. Humans have different pain tolerances, and Howard's appears to be relatively low.
This shouldn't be a negative, though fans will see him as not tough enough if they are already biased against him.
Trying to play through the injury didn't work for Howard and the Lakers the first time around. It is unclear what they can do to make it work on their second go-around.
Either way, the "Dwightmare" continues for what was expected to be a dream team in Los Angeles.
For more medical details on Howard's torn labrum, check out this article by B/R's Dave Siebert.