Game One of the first-round playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers ended on the night of Sunday, April 21, with a final score of 91-79 favoring San Antonio. It also was the start of the Lakers’ first postseason appearance that would not feature superstar shooting guard Kobe Bryant since he was drafted in 1996.
For 17 years, Bryant has been the face of the franchise, willing them to victory game after game. Fans know all too well of his competitive grit and killer instinct, leading him to be nicknamed “the Black Mamba.” The court is his domain, and few adversaries can be compared to him as equal.
But Bryant’s aura of dominance occupied a different place on that Sunday night: a hospital bed. Bryant pushed himself all season long, but it all came crashing down on the night of April 12, in a home game against the Golden State Warriors. On a hard drive to the left, with rookie Harrison Barnes guarding him, Bryant slowed up just after an explosive first step and fell to the ground, clutching his heel. His Achilles tendon was severed, and he will officially be out of commission for six to nine months.
Injuries go hand-in-hand with sports. Whether a white collar weekend warrior, a professional athlete or a Little League slugger, injury is always a possibility. Few events prove more crushing to an athlete’s spirit than season-ending injuries. Knowing that you won’t be able to lace up for another year is a hard pill to swallow. Tragically, many Paly athletes, like Kobe Bryant, have been afflicted with season-ending injuries.
A particularly nasty injury that makes its rounds in athletics is the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament injury. Countless famous athletes have picked up ACL injuries, and the spread of ACL injuries across sports shows how vital this ligament is to any type of contact sport that involves explosive movements and cuts. In the last year alone, high-profile ACL tears include the likes of Adrian Peterson (running back for the Minnesota Vikings), Robert Griffin III (quarterback for the Washington Redskins) and Derrick Rose (point guard for the Chicago Bulls). At least two Paly athletes in particular have suffered ACL injuries this year.
Hope Crockett, a junior guard for the varsity girl basketball team, tore her ACL in the fall.
“I tore it [her ACL] at the first preseason tournament in late November,” Crockett said. “One of my teammates … also tore her ACL this season. Apparently, girls are more susceptible to ACL injuries than boys but you see this kind of injury everywhere.”
Crockett had no option but to sit out the rest of the season. Prognosis for an ACL injury is at least six months of recovery time.
Gunnar Felt, a junior linebacker and wrestler, also tore his ACL during the 2012 football season.
“I tore [my ACL] towards the end of the season so I missed some big league games as well as the playoffs and postseason.”
Advancements in the medical field have made the future brighter for what used to be a career ending injury. Arthroscopic surgery, strengthening and rehabilitation techniques now pave a way for return to athletics.
“I had surgery over winter break and have been doing rehab since then at Agile Physical Therapy,” Crocket explained. “I go to Agile twice a week and also have exercises to do at home.”
Felt, on the other hand, has experienced much more difficulty in his rehab. “As far as surgery goes, I got a hamstring replacement. Basically, a piece of my hamstring was removed and inserted where my ACL used to be. Rehab has been rough; there’s a lot of bases to cover. I should be able to start jogging pretty soon (four months since surgery) and after that comes running and cutting.”
Both athletes showed great team spirit by still going to their team’s games, but they also agreed on how hard it was to watch their team from the sidelines.
“It was real hard not being able to go out on the field with them,” Felt said. “In our CCS game against Serra, all I wanted to do was go out and help the team, but obviously my hands were tied.”
Crockett voiced a similar sentiment.
“Not being able to contribute was the hardest part,” she said. “All the same, it was nice to be part of the team and the support and camaraderie that comes with it.”
In a similar fashion to Bryant, injured Paly athletes still watch their team’s games, going from No. 1 scoring options to No. 1 cheerleaders. In the same way, Bryant’s presence stays with his team, and although initially confined to a hospital bed, not a soul doubts that Bryant is on the court in spirit.