By: Morgan Urtso
Turns out, Kobe Bryant isn’t unbreakable.
The Lakers top-scorer went down with a severe left ankle sprain last night in the Lakers’ 96-92 loss to the Hawks. Kobe took the hit on a late 4th quarter jumper attempt to tie the game, tripping over Dahntay Jones’s foot with 3.9 seconds left in the game. In a post-game interview, Kobe confirmed the ankle sprain is his worst in 13 years. The last comparable injury, a similar sprain in the 2000 NBA Finals vs. the Pacers, put Kobe out a game and a half before returning to clinch his first of five NBA titles.
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So what does it mean this time around for Kobe and the struggling Lakers? It depends.
“A ‘severe ankle sprain’ really tells us nothing. It depends on how severe and what kind of ankle sprain it was,” says Mike Johnston, Vice President of ATLX Partner American Strongman and a sports medicine physical therapist. Johnston says it could be one of 3 types of sprains (lateral, medial or high ankle), and even though Kobe’s X-rays came back negative, sometimes swelling can cloak tiny fractures often mistaken as sprains.
The Lakers have yet to report the extent of Kobe’s injury or type of sprain he’s dealing with. Based on film, Johnston speculates it’s likely a lateral sprain, the most common kind, where the ankle rolls inward. If it’s extremely severe, it’s probably grade-3, meaning Kobe could be out anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
Generally, a lateral sprain can be walked on with an ankle wrap or brace, whereas the other two types, a medial sprain and a high ankle (syndesmotic) sprain, can’t support much weight.
A medial sprain, caused by the foot rolling outward as opposed to laterally inward, sprains the deltoid ligaments in the ankle and takes a longer time to heal.
A high ankle sprain, actually not a sprain at all by definition, occurs when the two bones in the lower leg actually come apart, so the interosseus fiber that sits between the bones gets torn.
“If he was just going to walk, if he was a banker, he’d be fine. But he’s running up and down the court, he’s stopping fast, he’s jumping, he’s changing direction. That’s where the problem lies,” Johnston says. Kobe can meet those athletic demands, at least minimally, in a brace. So knowing the type of sprain is crucial because the only one that allows for movement in a brace is the lateral ankle sprain.
Kobe tweeted this photo during treatment today, saying, “17yrs. Countless fades. This has happened TWICE. Jalen and Now Ankle still very swollen. Treatment all day #focus.”
The type of sprain can’t be confirmed until the team can do an MRI after the swelling dies down, so until the Lakers organization releases more detailed information, his injury puts him out indefinitely.