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With a step and a pop, Kobe Bryant just made ACLs and Kevin Ware yesterday's news and put the spotlight on a more devastating injury: a torn Achilles. I am by no means a Laker fan, but this is just sad. It's sad see someone work so hard to maintain his conditioning and have something like this happen to him. I may not like the guy, but you gotta respect his body of work. Seeing him go down like this is downright tragic.
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But, it happened, and now the focus is on why it happened. Check out this video to see the injury.
That, my friends, is what an Achilles tendon injury looks like. Kobe has already undergone successful surgery for the tear, and the initial prognosis is he will be out for six to nine months.
The Achilles is a tendon, not the same as the more popular ACL or anterior cruciate ligament. A tendon connects muscle to bone while a ligament connects bone to bone. Both though are similar in that the blood supply is less than that of muscle. Less blood supply means more time needed for it to heal. That's why injuries like these are devastating. The Achilles also is where the whole body meets the foot. If you look at the chain of muscles from the head down, you will see that they end at the Achilles and that the Achilles is where the weight of the entire body is being carried. That's some serious work load. And because of that, it is prone to tendonitis or the inflammation of the tendon which can leave to ruptures.
So, back to why. Earlier in the game, Kobe actually hurt his left knee on two separate occasions. He is also averaging 38 minutes a game this season, and in his mid-30s with 17 years of NBA playing mileage, you can easily say that his body has received tremendous amounts of stress. All of that combined with the leg, and the extended minutes trying to book the 8th spot for the playoffs, and it was the perfect scenario for the injury bug to bite him. In other words, no matter how strong you think you are, if you remain stubborn, at some point your body will just say, "I've had enough." and just give up on you. Sorry, you can't use mental toughness to prevent a torn tendon.
Is this a case of over-fatigue? Kobe says "who knows?" but let me answer that question with a big YES. This is where professional athletes should listen to their trainers (provided your trainers know their stuff) and know when to STOP and take a break. Good work ethic is a coach's dream but being coachable is also another. Listen to your coaches and be patient with your progression.
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It is also smart to apply self-myofascial compression techniques to the calf, soleus and Achilles region using a foam roller or other compression devices. This relieves a lot of tension on the Achilles and reduces inflammation to reduce the chances of injuries.
Strengthening of muscles and tendons are also an integral part of minimizing injuries. More on this in the following weeks since it deserves a whole post in itself but suffice it to say that proper strengthening should always be a requirement and should be paired by proper mobility exercises for the ankle
Finally, and most important of all is to incorporate recovery strategies to your athletic or workout programs. Especially if you're an athlete, your body already goes through so much stress when practicing your sport. If you add too much strength and conditioning work (read: TOO MUCH. You still need S&C), you might be putting your body at more risk for injuries. A proper S&C program should compliment and supplement your training. It shouldn't prevent your from performing in sport because of over-fatigue. This is why the S&C coach must work closely with the skills coach and head coach so that the program is sound.
Now, even if you follow all of these, sometimes things like this happen, it's just the reality of sports. You put yourself at a risk to get hurt every time you play. But it shouldn't scare us from doing what we love. So better do your part, and just pray to God that your body cooperates.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.