(CNN) -- Hobbling on crutches, football star David Beckham on Monday arrived at a clinic in Finland for treatment on a suspected ruptured Achilles tendon -- an injury that will rule him out of this year's World Cup in South Africa.
With his prime footballing days behind him, the 34-year-old's injury will also put a question mark over his ability to return to the game as an international player, and as a top flight professional for teams such as LA Galaxy and AC Milan.
Physiotherapists say if the injury is confirmed, Beckham faces months of rehabilitation to regain match fitness -- even if the damage to his tendon is only partial -- and would risk likely re-injury if he attempted to cut short the recovery time.
What is an Achilles tendon?
The Achilles tendon is a bundle of tissue that connects the heel to the muscles of the lower leg. The strongest tendon in the human body, it is put under pressure every time a person walks, runs, jumps or stands on their toes, often bearing the equivalent of many times their body weight.
How could Beckham have injured his?
Beckham's injury appears to have occurred spontaneously as he moved to kick the ball during a match. "This was probably the straw that broke the camel's back," says Sammy Margo, English football's first female physiotherapist, who points to Beckham's long career, an arduous training regime, frequent air travel, minimal rest and his status as an "older" player as likely contributing factors.
How long will he be out of action?
For a snapped Achilles tendon, Beckham could be looking at a recovery period of up to -- and possibly beyond -- six months, says Margo. "If it is an Achilles, then it's very serious. He could be out action for five to six months before he returns to playing, much longer before he's match fit." Sakari Orava, the Finnish orthopedic surgeon treating Beckham has said that Achilles damage would certainly remove the player's World Cup prospects, but there was still hope if it was a less serious ankle injury.
What's the treatment?
Says Margo, even a partially ruptured Achilles will require surgery, during which the ends of the tendon are sewn together. The foot is then encased in a boot and plaster for six weeks, which is re-set every two weeks. When the plaster comes off, the foot can begin bearing weight and post-operative physiotherapy begins, usually a program lasting between four and six months. Additional treatments can include an oxygen chamber and a special trampoline. Adds Margo: "David Beckham will no doubt have the very best treatment available, but while you can optimize recovery, you can't defy the laws of nature."
Can he make a full recovery?
Provided he completes the rehabilitation regime, Margo says there is no reason why he can't, but the factors that caused the injury in the first place will remain an inescapable threat for Beckham, adding to the likelihood of re-injury if he continues playing at the same level.
What about his footballing career?
According to CNN Sport Correspondent Pedro Pinto, although Beckham will almost certain return to play in Los Angeles where he remains under contract for one more full season, the injury on top of his age could spell the end of his appearances for England. "Not that many players are in action at international level at that age, so we could could have seen David Beckham in action for the last time," Pinto says.