Dale Steyn has been ruled out of South Africa's Test series in Australia and could face up to six months out of the game with a fractured right shoulder. He did damage to the shoulder, which he had broken last season, while bowling on the second morning of the first Test in Perth.
"I felt this pop or like a thud in my shoulder. There was a lot of pain," Steyn told Channel Nine. "I had to go off the field and have an MRI. I did something very similar against England in December in a similar area but it wasn't as bad. That was a stress reaction, which is like a very hairline little crack. This time it's more like a fracture. It's kind of broken the whole bone. I will probably have surgery and a plate in there. So we're probably looking at a minimum of six months before I'm up and going again.
"The last time took about three months and I was up and running and ready to play. As the scheduling goes, there's a lot of cricket to be played and people want you to play. I didn't have the full time to recover. I have been dealing with this for quite some time and I was wanting to rush and get to the Twenty20 World Cup, I wanted to go to the IPL. I wanted to play. This time I have to take the time to let it heal properly."
Steyn will return to South Africa after the WACA Test to see a shoulder specialist and it is "highly likely" according to South African team manager Mohammed Moosajee, who is also a medical doctor, that he will require surgery. Steyn is five wickets away from overtaking Shaun Pollock as South Africa's leading Test wicket-taker.
"He is extremely disappointed at the moment but knowing Dale, he will come back stronger," Moosajee said. "We need to to give him the best opportunity to recover because South Africa and the world wants to see Dale Steyn play again."
Steyn complained of discomfort in the first session and went down after delivering the fourth ball in his 13th over - his seventh of the day - after picking up the first wicket of the morning. "He heard something thud or pop when it happened," Moosajee said.
Steyn remained on his haunches in his followthrough and held his right shoulder while grimacing in pain. Keshav Maharaj and Hashim Amla were the first of his team-mates to arrive at his side before physiotherapist Brandon Jackson walked him off the field, 42 minutes before lunch. He was taken to the hospital where scans revealed the fracture. He returned to the ground and watched his team-mates bowl Australia out but will not take the field at all and will only bat if "absolutely necessary" depending on the state of the game.
The cause of Steyn's injury is not entirely known except that it may have stemmed from trauma, such as a motor-vehicle accident, and was not caused by action on a cricket field. Injuries of his nature are so rare that Moosajee said there was only one documented case of it affecting a cricketer in the literature. The bowler, a 27-year-old from Staffordshire, was not named in a report Moosajee had with him but required the lengthy recovery time.
Steyn has already spent several months tending to this injury. He broke the shoulder late last year and broke down in the Boxing Day Test against England and was ruled out of the rest of that series, including the limited-overs' matches.
Steyn had returned from the injury at the World T20 in March, when he played in two of South Africa's four matches. He was then left out of the Caribbean triangular series in June - officially rested but unofficially dropped - and allowed to play in the NatWest T20 Blast to regain form. He returned for South Africa's Tests against New Zealand and seemed back to his best with eight wickets in the Centurion win. He also played in four of the five ODIs against Australia and was occasionally seen holding the shoulder but did not need treatment at any stage.
Before this series against Australia, Faf du Plessis stressed the importance of Steyn staying fit for the thee Tests because of his role in leading South Africa's attack. Now, that responsibility will fall to someone else, most likely Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, but South Africa may consider flying in a replacement.
Morkel is not playing this Test after concerns over his match readiness following two months on the sidelines with a back injury. He has only played one first-class match since making his return but has also bowled in the warm-up matches on this tour. "Morne is progressing quite nicely since he injured his back. During the build up to this week he looked pretty good. It looks like he will be available for selection for the second Test," Moosajee said.
Should Morkel not be 100% ready, South Africa have a fifth specialist seamer in Kyle Abbott. Others who could come into contention are Hardus Viljoen, who debuted against England last summer and is currently second on the first-class competition wicket chart with 21 scalps at 23.04, or Marchant de Lange, who has not played a Test since 2012 and is fourth on the list. Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell are also both injured.