Examining Kobe Bryant's knee: There are hopeful signs
For the time being, however, there are several signs suggesting that Bryant's knee will fare better than the last two seasons.
ESPN the Magazine's Shaun Assel recently reported that Bryant was treated by Dr. Peter Wehling, who's attempted to heal Bryant's joints by manipulating the blood "to isolate growth factors that attack inflammation, and then [culturing the blood] with chemicals to increase their potency before being injected into his arthritic right knee."
That coincided with Bryant undergoing a derivation of platelet-rich plasma therapy, a controversial procedure that The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner reported involves drawing a small amount of blood from the patient's arm, spinning it in a centrifuge for about 20 minutes to isolate platelets and then, using ultrasound as a guide, injecting the platelets into the injured area to try to stimulate tissue repair.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Bryant has more energy this offseason than during last season's playoffs, when the arthritic joint in his right knee and a sprained left ankle often hobbled him. Bryant scored 43 points and hit the game winner at a Drew League appearance. He performed a 360-degree dunk at his camp. Lakers guard Derek Fisher said he considered Bryant "healthy" after playing with him in a pair of exhibition games in the Philippines in July.
Wehling's track record also provides some encouraging signs. He has treated Pope John Paul II and Detroit Pistons forward Tracy McGrady, who reportedly recommended Wehling to Bryant. Fred Couples has credited Wehling's treatment on his back as the main reason the PGA golfer won this year's Senior Players Championship.
Of course, it's presumptuous to suggest that these developments would fully translate into Bryant successfully grinding through a 82-game season, or even a lockout-shortened season, without any setbacks. It appears highly likely, though, that these procedures will help meet Bryant's offseason goal of building enough leg strength to practice regularly, a routine he mostly strayed away from last season.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has had to deal with lingering problems associated with an arthritic joint in his right knee. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press