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NHL Injury Analysis: Ramifications of the Extended Offseason

Hannah Rawls

Hannah is from St. Petersburg, FL. She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University. She's a certified athletic trainer and currently works for a NCAA D2 college in Florida. She has worked with NAIA and NCAA football, rugby, and lacrosse and ACHA ice hockey as an athletic trainer.

As I sat watching the Lightning annihilate the Jets on Friday, I realized how unconditioned and unprepared a majority of these men look on the ice. (I'm slightly embarrassed for them, and by them I mean the Jets.) Knowing there was always a chance of the "extended offseason" ending, you would think that more players would have worked on their fitness and conditioned more to avoid injury when the season finally started. If you think about it, there was more than enough time to learn how to actually stand up on their skates without falling awkwardly and pulling a groin muscle. Seriously.

Ray Whitney of Dallas will be missing in action for the next 4-6 weeks due to a broken foot. According to multiple sources (and, well, my own eyes), Whitney hasn't really been skating the same for the past couple of games. To me it seems like he's been bothered by this injury for about a week (or more) but played anyways. If this is the case it sounds like what he may have is a stress fracture, or he had a stress fracture and played on it which subsequently caused the weakened bone to finally fully crack. Whitney has been walking around in a boot for the week, so if I had to guess (and we all know I'm pretty awesome at that) I would say the worsened stress fracture was the case. Four to six weeks is a pretty standard amount of time for a fracture to heal. However, the foot can be a little trickier than most parts of the body and Whitney has his age working against him too. When he returns, if healed properly, he should (hopefully) be back to his old (see what I did there?) point making self.

This week it's the Rangers' Ryan Callahan's turn to deal with a shoulder injury. According to the Rangers, Callahan is dealing with the effects of a shoulder subluxation (partial dislocation of the joint). Subluxations can be caused by weakened ligaments or muscles, overuse, or previous injury to the area. I can't pretend to know what is going on inside Callahan's body (dang I wish I had x-ray vision), but what I do know is that the Rangers have him listed as being out for 10-14 days. With this timeframe, Callahan has plenty of time to rest his shoulder and start on a shoulder strengthening program. Without knowing the extent of the injury I can't say how great his shoulder will hold up during the season, but I figure since nothing is torn within the shoulder structure and the Rangers have decided to take the time to let him rest and heal, he has a greater chance of lasting the season.

Patric Hornqvist of Nashville is out until late February with what the team is calling a "knee sprain". There are many things inside the knee structure to sprain, the most common being the ACL or MCL. Whatever the sprain Hornqvist has, he will need to go through a rigorous rehab program that will help strengthen the structures within the knee. If done correctly, the rehab should make his knee more stable and his lower body should be more powerful (in theory). In five games this season, Hornqvist, has already picked up four points. In my opinion I would watch out for him, but I would also be wary because even with proper rehab (which I'm extremely sure he will be getting) there is always a good chance of reinjuring the area.

Last year Calgary called up their best prospect, Sven Baertschi, at the end of the season and within five games he had three goals. This season Baertschi has played in four games and has nothing to show for it, except for what the Calgary Herald is calling a "hip flexor." I'm going to throw this out for you guys, everyone has a hip flexor, actually we all have multiple since the term hip flexor is used loosely to refer to a group of muscles (like the hamstrings). The problem comes when we injure those hip flexor muscles like Baertschi seems to have done. Hip flexor injuries are normally caused by overuse or a forceful contraction. Since this injury came about during a practice this week, both mechanisms of injury can easily be the case. Baertschi has been listed as week-to-week by the Flames, which shows that the injury is most likely a Grade 2 hip flexor strain (partial tearing of the muscle). Grade 2 strains take a longer time to heal and rehabilitate, but since Baertschi is so young he has a great chance of coming back from this and improving his stats this season. As a disclaimer I would like you to remember this, groin and hip flexor strains are very similar in healing and both can be extremely nagging for long periods of time if not given the proper time to heal.

The Blue Jackets' Cam Atkinson will be sitting out for at least another 2-3 weeks with a high ankle sprain. The story sounds like Atkinson hurt himself during the shortened training camp, but played in the team's first three games (and registered one goal). With the lack of rest on what was probably an already sprained ankle (I say probably because Columbus decided to originally use the ridiculous "lower body injury" label), Atkinson now has something that will take even longer to heal. High ankle sprains usually take about six weeks to heal with proper rehab, and most of the time requires a walking boot to help relieve pain and to keep unneeded pressure off of the injury. Atkinson has not been out very long and with his timetable set for return in just a few weeks, it makes me nervous to say anything optimistic about his return, especially since these sprains are normally accompanied by residual weakness and stiffness after normal healing. This is the NHL though, so there is probably some magic water they mix in Lord Stanley's Cup to heal the players faster than us mere mortals.