HOUSTON // Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets centre, will miss the rest of the season because of a stress fracture in his left ankle.
The injury was found in an MRI examination on the seven-time NBA all-star.
Walter Lowe, the team physician, said surgery is the usual treatment, but Yao, who has been sidelined since November 10, is consulting with doctors. If he chooses to have an operation, it could be up to 10 months before he can return to the court.
He sat out last season after reconstructive surgery to repair his broken left foot, and Lowe said this injury is related. Lowe said the surgery did not put him at a greater risk of stress fractures, but that Yao has always been prone to them.
"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."
Daryl Morey, the Rockets general manager, said he is hopeful that Yao will recover and play for the team in the future.
"Yao Ming's an All-Star centreand when you look throughout the league there's not very many of them," Morey said.
Lowe is also optimistic that Yao can play again. "Is this something that I would say: 'Hey, you've got no chance of ever playing again?' No, absolutely not," Lowe said.
Yao was not available for comment, but Morey said he is taking the news hard. "How much he's been off the court, and how much he cares about his teammates and the fans probably is really tough for him," Morey said.
Yao is due to make US$17.7 million (Dh65m) this season. The Rockets went 42-40 and missed the play-offs with him out last season, and are 10-15 this year, bottom of the Southwest Division.