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NHL Injury Analysis: Timely Attention Can Prevent Absences

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.

I had the pleasure of being shown an article a couple of days ago comparing hockey players and baseball players. It was pretty much the top 10 reasons why hockey players are better than everyone. Since there is no way someone could write an article comparing their athletic prowess, this article was based off the passion and drive of hockey players past and present, and their ability to return to the ice after horrific injuries and compared those to the minor injuries (like sitting out for 15 days after sneezing too hard) of the MLB. Now, I may call out a few guys now and again in our league, but I do it because of what this article is saying, NHL players aren't pansies, but when they're sitting out with questionable injuries when men before them played two weeks after having their carotid artery slit by a skate, it just makes me wonder what happened to the passion in our sport. Also, when they're sitting out they're not scoring points for my fantasy team, and isn't that what it's all about?

Matt Frattin of Toronto will be out for about a week (according to the team) after undergoing a procedure on his knee a few days ago. Frattin is no stranger to the operating room as he had surgery on the same knee just this past June. He returned to the ice in November (about five months after surgery) for the Leafs' AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies with no issues. And, after being called up, just a few weeks ago, Frattin had 10 points (7 goals and 3 assists) in as many games. The team is obviously not releasing the exact details of Frattin's procedure, but they are saying that it was a flare up of his MCL and that the team doctors had some concern about the issue and that it shouldn't be a long term problem. What perks my little injury loving ears up is the very short timetable for his return to the ice and the endless possibilities that surround the word "procedure" in this situation. Did he have an aspiration done (excess fluid in the area removed), or was it a cortisone shot? I wouldn't put all bets on black if you're gambling on Frattin returning within this "week" that Toronto has laid out for him. If he does return in this time, I would keep a close eye on him and his knee. Two issues within one year on the same knee is never a good thing.

Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera will be out a few games because of the ramifications from a severe muscle spasm (charley horse). We've all had one at least once in our lives, and I know we can all collectively empathize with the man. Most muscle spasms are caused by dehydration, overuse, or low levels of certain minerals such as potassium and calcium. Normal treatment includes heat, stretching, and rest. In severe case muscle relaxants are used to help alleviate the stress on the muscle and in extreme cases surgical procedures to release the tendon of the contracted muscle are done. I have no idea how long Sekara's spasm lasted but for the team to be giving him about a week off due to the incident, it must have lasted a long time and with that knowledge we can all collectively think to ourselves about how lucky we are to only have had a charley horse for about 10 seconds. One good thing to note here is that as soon as he returns he should be good as new.

Defenseman Erik Karlsson of Ottawa is out for the season following surgery to repair his lacerated Achilles tendon. In a sort of freak accident, Karlsson took Matt Cooke's skate to the back of his ankle after being checked into the boards during last week's game. The surgery to repair the tendon is really no different than the repair of a ruptured tendon from a more "normal" injury. With an incision in the back of the ankle, the torn ends of the tendon are found and sutured back in place. Casts and walking boots follow the surgery in the following weeks and then rehab will begin. The recovery time for this procedure is about six months. Hopefully, we'll see him back on the ice when training camp starts up next season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be a winger short for the next 3-4 weeks as Ryan Malone sits out with an undisclosed lower body injury. Malone was injured kicking around a soccer ball before last Sunday's game against the Rangers. Some sources are citing that Malone has been dealing with this injury for a while and according to GM Steve Yzerman, Malone was "warming up... and it tightened up." Things like this happen, and most of the time it's unavoidable especially as we get older. In this situation we can assume that Malone's issue lies in his back. Malone is getting older (in NHL years) and back injuries sometimes end up being for life without the proper treatments. I'm not saying the training staff in Tampa can't  get him back into playing condition (mostly because they're all awesome over there), what I am saying is that the longer you play hurt without seeking the proper treatment, the harder it is to get better in a timely fashion. I may be wrong about it being his back it could be his big toe, either way it doesn't really matter. The lesson here is to watch for players with ailments that are still playing, or are just returning back from the IR. You never know how fast something can "tighten up", and then you're out a roster spot.