Chinese center Yao Ming underwent successful surgery to repair the left foot fracture that has ruled him out for the whole of the next NBA season while Chinese media faulted the league for the center’s injuries.
The operation at the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute also included additional procedures to “change the alignment of his foot” and prevent the injury recurring, said a report on the team’s Web site.
The seven-times All Star has been blighted by injuries in recent years, the latest of which — described by team doctor Tom Clanton as “career threatening” — occurred during the Western Conference semi-finals against the LA Lakers on May 8.
Clanton and doctor Bill McGarvey conducted the surgery to repair a broken bone, grafting bone onto Yao’s tarsal navicular bone and realigning his foot.
“Everything went according to plan and we were able to achieve not only fixation of the broken bone but also realignment of the bones to improve the stress pattern on his foot,” Clanton said in a statement. “Yao is doing well and resting comfortably after these procedures. We expect him to be immobilized in a cast and using crutches for at least 6-8 weeks.”
The Rockets said last week that the 28-year-old Yao would sit out the entire 2009-2010 season to allow his full recuperation.
The 229cm Shanghainese is China’s most popular sportsman and topped the most recent Forbes China list of entertainers, with an estimated income of 357 million yuan (US$52.27 million).
Yao had been scheduled to take part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp for young Asian players in Beijing next week but was absent from the list of participants issued by NBA China on Tuesday.
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BLAME THE NBA
China’s state media on Tuesday blamed the rigors of the NBA for the injury, calling on the league to shorten its playing season.
A commentary in the People’s Daily dismissed the widely held view in the US that Yao’s repeated injuries stemmed from training with China’s national team during the NBA off-season.
“It can only be said that the NBA game has worn Yao Ming out,” the paper fired back. “The physical beating taken by every player due to the long season, the high level of match play and the endless travel cannot be overlooked. The NBA should consider changing its match scheduling from the standpoint of safeguarding players.”
The commentary analyzed Yao’s recent injuries and said they all occurred during the NBA season, including a break in the same left foot six months ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“With the world’s most advanced sports medicine and treatment the NBA has been unable to resolve the continued problems with Yao Ming’s health,” the commentary said. “So this problem might actually not be decided by his body or the conditions of his medical treatment, but is a basic issue related to the games themselves.”
Yao recently bought his former Chinese team, the financially embattled Shanghai Sharks. He said this week the move was not a sign that he was considering retirement.