Dick Harmon: Travis Hansen's memo to Mehmet Okur: It will be OK

Published: Thursday, April 22 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur goes down with an Achilles tendon injury against the Nuggets during the NBA playoffs first-round Game 1 in Denver, Colorado, Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur goes down with an Achilles tendon injury against the Nuggets during the NBA playoffs first-round Game 1 in Denver, Colorado, Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Since this is Monster Medical Month for the Utah Jazz, sidelined Mehmet Okur can receive solace that a fan living in Spain can relate.

Former Atlanta Hawk and BYU guard Travis Hansen feels Okur's pain. Hansen knows what it's like to have the Achilles tendon explode and have the body hit the floor like a sack of potatoes.

He knows how the calf muscle absorbs the shock and the lock-up that follows.

Hansen knows the worries, the concern of making it back, questioning if he'll ever be the same, if he'll be able to continue as an elite athlete, playing at the highest level.

Okur had surgery to repair his Achilles tendon on Tuesday after crumpling to a heap on the floor of the Pepsi Center last Saturday at Denver during Game 1 of the first round of the Jazz's NBA playoff series with the Nuggets.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Charles Saltzman, the chairman of the University of Utah's Department of Orthopedics.

Like Hansen, by all accounts the Jazz center is in good hands, and he should make a full recovery.

The bottom line: Take it easy and slow, nurse it back carefully, and Okur should be fine. He'll hopefully be able to get back to hitting big 3-pointers and his slow-developing power drive, along with his disco moves at clubs.

Hansen's injury occurred the first week of February in 2007. After a careful, slow and deliberate rehabilitation, he made it back by September, nearly eight months later.

Some experts say six months, but depending upon the procedure and extent of the tear, it could be eight.

"It took all of that eight months before Travis felt he could go 90 to 100 percent," said his father, Scott. Hansen then continued his successful and lucrative career playing in Europe and has excelled three years since the surgery.

Hansen was 27 years old and playing the first year of his contract for Dynamo Moscow when he blew out his Achilles tendon falling back to defend the post. He felt his left calf muscle explode as if shot by a rifle.

"I fell like a rock. I went down," Hansen said.

Hansen immediately flew back to Provo, where he had surgery within 24 hours of the injury. "They did a great job; usually, when they do this surgery, the tendon ends up being an inch longer. It is frayed like the tail of a horse, but they threaded it back, overlapped it to keep it tight, braided it," said Hansen, who was in the prime of his career at the time.

According to Scott Hansen, part of the issue with Achilles tendon injuries is the tendon is weakened by a previous injury and the blood supply to that area isn't as good as it is supposed to be.

Okur, who had experienced tendonitis in the tendon, received a pain-killing injection prior to the game in which he was injured last Saturday.

Hansen's surgery, done by Dr. Robert Faux of Provo, has given him confidence the tendon is actually stronger than before. It should be. It is three times the size of his right Achilles tendon.

As a big guard who handles the ball, drives, defends and is involved in far more motion than a center like Okur, Hansen might be placing far more stress on his. And it's holding up dandy.

Hansen turned 32 last week, and he's fulfilling a lucrative contract with Real Madrid in the European League. He has established a reputation as a lock-down defender.

If Hansen's Achilles is his Achilles at his age, three years after the injury, it is big news to opponents. Hansen is making more money than at any time in his career as Madrid just lost to Barcelona and is now involved in the semifinals of the Spanish Tournament.

Memo from Hansen to Okur: Good luck; you'll be fine.

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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