Houston’s Chinese star Yao Ming will miss the rest of the NBA season with a stress fracture in his left ankle, the Rockets said on Friday.
The announcement came a day after the injury was revealed by an MRI examination, dealing another serious setback to Yao’s efforts to revive his injury-disrupted NBA career.
Rockets team doctor Walter Lowe said surgery is the usual treatment for such an injury, which has sidelined the towering 2.26m center since Nov. 10.
Yao is still consulting with doctors to determine how he will proceed.
Lowe said Yao’s current injury is related to the one he suffered last year, even though it’s not in the same spot.
Yao sat out all of the 2009-2010 season after reconstructive surgery to repair the foot and also lower his arch.
Lowe acknowledged that Yao likely remains at greater than average risk of stress fractures.
“When you look at the course of Yao’s career, stress fractures have been part of his foot,” Lowe said. “So to say he’s not at a risk to continue to have stress fractures would be crazy. So he is at a continued risk. The new position of his foot should ... make those stresses lower.”
If Yao opts for surgery, it would take from seven to 10 months for him to return to the court.
Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey said he remained hopeful that Yao, 30, would recover and play for the Rockets again.
“We need to continue to talk to the doctors and see where that goes,” Morey said. “Yao Ming’s an All-Star center and when you look throughout the league there’s not very many of them. So if it looks like there’s a good prognosis here — and we’re still learning how good that prognosis will be — for sure we’re going to look at Yao Ming past this season.”
Yao himself didn’t speak to the media on Friday, but Morey said the player, who has worked tirelessly to get back in shape and rejoin his teammates, was disappointed.
“How much he’s been off the court, and how much he cares about his teammates and the fans and the Rockets, probably is really tough for him,” Morey said.
Yao was the top overall draft pick in 2002, but the 2005-2006 campaign saw the first of many injuries when he broke a bone in his left foot with four games remaining in the season.
In the 2006-2007 season, he broke his right leg and missed 32 games and he missed the 2008 post-season after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot in February of that year.
Yao had pins inserted to stabilize the foot and played for China at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In 2008-2009, Yao played 77 regular-season NBA games and had no problems with his foot until the second round of the playoffs.