The Lakers believe Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles. He will have an MRI tomorrow to confirm.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2013
As Trudell stated, this is about the worst-case scenario possible for the Los Angeles Lakers. If confirmed, the normal time lost to an Achilles rupture is 10 to 12 months, putting the first half of next season in jeopardy. Remember, Bryant recently said he would make a decision about next year being his last in the NBA.
One key point is that while Trudell and many others are using the colloquial term "torn" in regards to the tendon, the correct term here is strain. Any injury to ligaments, muscles or tendons involves some degree of tearing of the fibers that make up the structure. A severe tendon strain or complete tearing is termed a rupture.
If it can get worse, the injuries to Bryant's knees will complicate his rehab and return from this Achilles injury. The Lakers will have to be very careful with his rehab to make sure that his repaired leg doesn't cause any gait changes and cascade injuries, which are very common in this type of situation.
Strengthening the muscles of the leg, especially the gastrocnemius (calf), is paramount to the success of the rehab and the return to function. Bryant is already having trouble with this due to the maintenance needed on his knees.
The record of returns in the NBA is not good. Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus (now at ESPN.com) looked at the data last year and there's not much hope in here. Whether Bryant follows the path of Isiah Thomas or Dominique Wilkins remains to be seen.
If there is any positive, it is that Achilles tendon repairs have seen great leaps (no pun intended) in the last few years. Terrell Suggs, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, returned to play just six months after rupturing his Achilles. Suggs' return flies in the face of research on NFL players and Achilles injuries.
Bryant has developed—or aged—into a player that is not reliant on athleticism. He certainly has a high degree of this left, but he's much more reliant on his mental game than he is an athletic freak, as he was early in his career. Bryant could likely adjust more if the full function doesn't return, perhaps becoming more of an outside shooter.
The images taken on Saturday may determine the course of the Lakers' future, as well as Bryant's. The team put together this year fell short of expectations and could be dismantled. If Bryant is going to come back to a rebuilding team, he may look at his chances of winning another ring and hang up his lowtops.
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