Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming has elected to have surgery on his left foot, which could force him to miss the entire 2009-10 season.
The 28-year-old will undergo a bone graft and a realignment of his arch, in hopes that the procedures will alleviate stress on the foot.
"While no timetable has been set for his return to action, Yao is expected to be available for the team's training camp in 2010," said a statement Friday on the team's website.
Yao and the Rockets hoped that his foot, which was fractured for a second time in the second round of the 2009 playoffs, would heal over the off-season.
But tests in late June revealed that the foot didn't heal at all, and after numerous consultations the team and its Chinese star opted for the surgery. A third fracture of his foot would likely end his playing career.
"This surgery will allow me to continue my career playing basketball and I look forward to returning to the court," Yao said in the statement.
"I would like to thank everyone who sent me their best wishes. I am very grateful to have the support of teammates, friends and fans as I dedicate myself to making a completely successful recovery."
The procedures are similar to the ones that Cleveland centre Zydrunas Ilgauskas had eight years ago, and he's played ever since without incident. ESPN.com reported that Yao spoke with Ilgauskas and was encouraged by what he heard.
It will be the fifth straight season that sees Yao miss time because of injury.
The decision for surgery was expected, as Houston applied for a disabled player exception from the NBA a few weeks ago.
The league agreed that Yao's return is unlikely and approved the request.
It freed up about $5.7 million US that the Rockets used to sign free agent Trevor Ariza from the Lakers.
Yao has averaged 19.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots in his career, and has 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in 28 playoff games.
He advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career last season, when the Rockets defeated Portland in six games.