Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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Kobe and me -- we're a lot alike

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Sports Updated: April 15, 2013 - 12:08 PM

Hey Kobe, admit it. It didn't hurt that much.

Late in Friday's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors, Kobe Bryant made a move to the basket. But this time, he didn't get anywhere close. He fell down and grabbed his ankle.

Bryant, 34, had a fully ruptured left Achilles' tendon. He is done for the regular season -- what little remains of it -- and the playoffs if the Lakers qualify. He limped off the court.

"I just made a move that I have made a million times -- and it popped," Kobe said.

Me, too. I had a sheet of plywood on two horses. I was cutting it up to burn the samller pieces in the firepit in our backyard. I was going to cover the Lynx-Phoenix WNBA game that night for the Star Tribune.

So there I was, making a motion I have done a million times. I was sawing. And then I bent forward to break the piece of plywood which was almost -- but not quite cut all the way.

And pop. Somebody or something whacked me on the back of my left ankle. At least that was my initial reaction as the plywood broke.

I actually  looked around. Mouthed a bad word.  Nothing behind me. No person. No object. But something had hit me in the back of my ankle, right?

I limped into the house, careful not to bend the shaken up ankle. I told my wife we had to go see a doctor. Right away, pronto, like now. Something was definitely wrong with my ankle. It felt like something snapped or pulled apart. The strangest feeling

Same for you, Kobe? But Kobe, you are luckier than me in one way. When you are out and about on your crutches or later wearing your boot, people won't ask you what happened? I got that question, 1,000 times. Was tempted to make hang a piece of cardboard on my chest, saying: "Torn Achilles' tendon." And in smaller type: "Garage accident."

I told some people I got it skydiving, climbing a mountain, saving a cat from a tree ... but always fessed up quickly.

Everybody knows what happened to you. If they didn't see live on TV, they heard or read about it. You're Kobe, the Black Mamba, the nickname you gave yourself.

I don't even have a nickname. Used to be the prep czar.

But back to my tear ... After the sharp pain right away -- no, I didn't cry or fall to the ground or anything like that .. you looked a lot worse than me -- it really didn't hurt that much. I was more worried than anything.

I called work. Told them I probably had a torn Achilles. They got someone to replace me at the Lynx game. Then I went to the doctor and she told me it was just a strain. What a relief.

But she was wrong. But that's a long story for another time.

So I'll jump ahead. I had surgery on August 1. Woke up with my ankle in a white cast and my toes pointing down rather than being parallel to the floor.

Here is what is going to happen Kobe:

You will have three casts in the next six weeks, as your medical team gradually brings your toes back to a normal position.

The first one your toes are pointing down because they just retied the tendon. They don't want to put much pressure on it, but will gradually stretch it out with the next two casts -- gradually bringing the toes to a normal position, so the foot is flat on the ground..

I picked Vikings purple and neon green as the colors on my next two casts. You might want to go with Lakers colors being a team guy.

For the first week to 10 days after the surgery, they don't want you to get out of bed much. Just keep the leg elevated. I watched a lot of TV, read books. You want some of my paperbacks? I really like James Patterson novels and crime mystery stories, in general.

I even slept with my leg elevated. Nice thing was I had my food brought to me at home by my wife or daughters. Lost weight, too. Never snacked. Couldn't go to fridge or kitchen on my own. Stayed in my room except for bathroom trips. But I doubt you need to lose weight, Kobe.

Oh, my crutches. I still have those. Want 'em? They adjust to different heights. I'm 5-9 something. I know you are a little taller.

Also you need to get a scooter you can put your bad leg on. Makes it much easier to get around. You put your shin on top of the scooter, and push yourself with your other leg. Has four little wheels, so it can turn in a tight spot. I rented my for $90 a month. Better than crutches. Well worth it. Of course, you probably aren't worried about the price.

Most exciting adventures in my cast. Getting the plastic bag  on my leg to take a shower once a day. Kinda tough. And one day,  the green plastic chair I was sitting on in the tub broke.

I got my cast off on Sept. 17 and went back to work that day, covering the Lynx-Indiana WNBA game.

Of course, my left foot was in a boot. A big, black boot with five straps to limit your foot and ankle from moving too much. The straps were attached to the boot by velcro, they often came off or got tangled, were awkward to put on. And the boot weighs quite a bit, too. You won't like it..

The boot stays on for six weeks. So it's six weeks in three different casts, six weeks in a boot. That's your next three months, Kobe.

But two weeks after getting the boot, which I always wore except when I took a shower, I started physical therapy twice a week.

Lots of gentle stretches, riding a stationary bike, and getting my foot wrapped in a device that squeezed my foot and was as cold as a bucket of ice. Helped bring the swelling down. But I did a lot of clock watching. Got it off after 20 minutes.

Also, once the boot was off, got to bounce on a small trampoline and to stand on a platform with a ball underneath it -- you move it around to strengthen.

April 1 was nine months after my surgery. My physical therapist said I could start playing tennis then, but to ease into it. I haven't yet. Winter is still here. Maybe I should get my cross-country skis down from the rafters in my garage?

But Kobe, I'm sure you will rehab much quicker than me. At 34, you are several decades younger. And I'm sure you will actually do the exercices you are supposed to do three-four times a day, put ice on your left ankle daily, and everything else they tell you. Your legs are important to your job. Not so much to mine.

I sit a lot, so you know what is important to me.

But you will do fine in your PT (physicial therapy). I was not so conscientious. I did my exercies the day before, and the morning of my physical therapy sessions in case I was asked if I had been doing them. I could honestly say, "Sometimes."

But you, Kobe, I'm sure you will do more than they tell you. Go got 'em, guy.

My ankle still swells up on me every day. I won't be able to ever dunk -- of course, I never could. But my outside shot was pretty good at one time. That might come back.

I have a pretty nasty-looking scar that is 4-5 inches long on my ankle. Guessing you will have that, too.

So that makes us members of the same club -- the RATS. Which stands for people with "ruptured Achilles' tendon scars." We will have those for as long as we live.

But hang in there, Kobe. I'm OK now. You will be soon, too.

Just don't forget, when you get into your boot,  my doctor's advice about always wearing it: "It can tear," he said, the day I got my cast off. He was referring to the Achilles' tendon.

So always wear your boot, buddy.

And then my doctor repeated the same three words three or four more times to make sure they sunk in with me: "It can tear. It can tear. It can tear."

"I don't want to see you back again," my doctor said, finishing the visit.

Got it doc: "It can tear." Don't want to see you again either, doc.

Do want to see you, Kobe, on the court soon. After all, us members of the RATS have to root for one another.

 

 

 

 

 

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