This week there were several injuries that may not appear serious at first glance but could develop into something more substantial in the future.
The first injured player of note is Simon Gagne of Tampa Bay. He initially sustained a neck injury on October 21 that was thought to be a minor strain, but he is still experiencing neck soreness. Instead of a minor strain, it appears Gagne may have sprained the ligaments around his neck. If this is the case, the recovery time will be a bit longer. Hopefully nothing serious comes from this. It is a different story with Michael Nylander of Florida. He may not be a major player in fantasy leagues at this point, but he is facing season-ending neck surgery; and because he is nearly 40, it could be career ending. Recovery from neck surgery can take 3-to-4 months, but the effects of the procedure can sometimes linger for an additional 2-to-3 months after that. Nylander faces a long road back if he chooses to take it.
Chicago’s Marian Hossa has an undisclosed upper body injury that was originally expected to keep him out a couple weeks. However, he is hoping to return to the lineup sometime next week. Hossa is a key player for the defending champion Blackhawks, so hopefully he is able to return as planned.
Colby Armstrong of Toronto is going to have tendon surgery in his hand and will be out 4-to-6 weeks, so the Maple Leafs will count on a couple younger players to step up in his absence. St. Louis’ Roman Polak suffered a lacerated right wrist and will undergo surgery. The most logical explanation for the surgery is a damaged tendon, but the reason for the procedure has not been announced. Both players will miss approximately two months and will need to regain tissue flexibility and grip strength. If Polak does not have tendon damage, his recovery could potentially be faster.
Someone appears to be selling injuries to the Rangers and Vaclav Prospal is the latest buyer. Prospal suffered a knee injury, but luckily he will not need microfracture surgery. It sounds like he just needed some cartilage to be cleaned out, which means he should be back in about 4-to-5 weeks. I tend to be a little conservative at times because I have seen both athletes and non-athletes need an extended recovery period through no fault of their own. The training staff will need to control his post-op swelling and spend a week or two getting the strength and agility back. New Jersey’s Zach Parise will undergo arthroscopic surgery after injuring his knee the past weekend. The extent of the injury has not been revealed, but I assume he has some cartilage damage and possibly some ligament damage. Expect him to out 4-to-6 weeks. A player on the way back from arthroscopic knee surgery is Brian Rafalski of Detroit. Rafalski underwent surgery on October 12 and began skating again recently. This is a good sign because it means the knee is stable enough to begin light workouts on the ice. As long as Rafalski continues to increase the intensity of his workouts, he should be back relatively soon.
New York Islander Milan Jurcina injured his hamstring this past weekend, which could develop into a lingering issue if not treated properly. The hamstring is an important muscle in the skating motion and has a secondary role of adding to hip stability, so an injured one can also impact other areas such as the knee or lower back. Weak and/or tight hamstrings alter the movement patterns the knee goes through and can cause stress and pain in the lower back. The effects depend on the severity of the injury, but we have seen little injuries become more serious in the past so these types of injuries are important to monitor.
The hip is a joint that can be injured in many ways. Its main benefit to us – which can also be a liability – is that it is very mobile. Due to the amount of motion, the muscular component that provides stability is very important. Washington’s Marcus Johansson is dealing with a hip injury, but no details have been released. He has been able to skate and is getting close to returning to the lineup. Still, hip injuries can lead to other issues, so until he is officially back at 100 percent, keep an eye on his movement and agility.
I have mentioned in previous articles the impact of groin injuries. Looking through the injury list, it appears that this type of injury is having a big impact on the league. Cam Barker and Guillaume Latendresse of Minnesota, Michael Grabner of the Islanders, Pascal Leclaire of Ottawa, Dominic Moore of Tampa Bay, and finally, Chris Osgood of Detroit, are all dealing with groin injuries, and all are having some difficulty getting back into shape. The groin muscles are unique in that they stabilize and assist movement, but they can become injured when the muscles get overworked. Rehab starts with decreasing the pain and assisting the tissue healing process, but the most important thing is retraining the motor pattern so that the muscles regain their normal function. Groin injuries can mask or lead to other injuries.
Byron Bitz of Florida was originally told he had a groin injury, but it now appears he will undergo sports hernia surgery and miss 6 weeks. Bitz will need to regain his abdominal strength and trunk stability; and because the lower abdominals are in close proximity to the groin region, he will also need to gain the flexibility and strength there as well.
Lastly, high ankle sprains can be a problem for all athletes because they cause pain when cutting, pushing off, or changing speeds. Alexandre Bolduc of Vancouver is dealing with this type of injury, but he is out of his cast now. The cast was used to stabilize the ankle and allow the tissue in the lower leg to heal. Bolduc’s rehab process will begin with strengthening, but he will have to be careful to limit the impact on his ankle because any excessive force can push the two bones apart and lead to re-injury. As the area gets stronger, more cutting motions will be included; and in time, jumping and running will also be introduced. Kristian Huselius of Columbus has also been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and will go through a similar process in the coming weeks. The syndesmosis, or the ligament between the lower leg bones, needs to heal enough in order to begin the active rehab process.
Good luck to all with their rehabilitation.