NHL

Walshy’s World: Staal Update, yes another one…. Plus an un-hip Comrie

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(Ed’s note… our resident health and fitness expert, Cameron Walsh heard your calls to duty and answered them with his expert opinions on both Jordan Staal’s hand and Mike Comrie’s hip. The piece is a very informative read on both players…especially when you consider his assessment of Mike Comrie…enjoy! – Metz)

By Cameron Walsh

I received a tweet the other day from @Wranglersm “So what the hell is up with Staal’s recovery? What aren’t they telling us about his hand” end quote. To be honest I kind of wanted to lay off the Staal hand injury, a bone should be relatively straight forward in its repair. Well it seems the recovery curse has struck Staal down again and he is not healing as fast as an athlete normally would.

Well that is the thing here; with muscular injuries an athlete has an advantage over the everyday average Joe. Because their body is so fit and healthy (well in theory – some athletes are just too lazy), they should be able to recover from a muscle based injury quicker than say an office person, a postal worker or even the weekly local deck hockey player. The extra conditioning their body goes through puts the athlete in a better position to recover from muscular injuries.

Bone injuries on the other hand (no pun intended), are a little different. Once the bone is broken, it is broken, you cannot condition your bones with weights, although extra muscle mass does help stave off osteoporosis in old age. In fact you can be calcium deficient from a young age due to bad eating habits or genetics which causes brittle bones and makes recovery from bone breaks difficult and a longer process than the average. It also makes you more susceptible to breaks.  I do not think that Staal has calcium deficient bones.  If this was the case he would have broken something before now and any healing deficiency would have been exposed.

So when I read a comment at Metzer’s old haunt by a good friend Powerhouse, who works in this field, I took the dates and times Powerhouse listed for Staal’s recovery as a pretty good indicator as the time frames for Staal too, seeing as an athlete’s bones are not going to heal any faster than a non-athlete.

I am going to directly quote what Powerhouse wrote so I don’t get any of it wrong:

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Fractures take 6 weeks to heal and 4 to rehab as a typical course of care. It was repaired on Nov 1st so Dec 27th would be the EARLIEST return I would expect. Fractures can be somewhat unpredictable. He had screws placed in it to internally fixate the bone so it’s not like he could do much to hurt it. Just takes time to mend. Be patient you don’t want him back too early.”

There is nothing there that makes me worry about what Staal is going through with his hand. The only thing that worries me for Staal is the timetable Powerhouse has projected, 8 weeks by my count.

Can you see the team rushing him back after what he has been through before? If you take the dates from the 2nd of Nov (the date of the surgery) through the full 6 week repair and then the full 4 week rehab of the hand/forearm/wrist area, you are looking at a return date of Tuesday the 11th of Jan which is Boston at the Consol Energy Center.  Well it is by my calendar, by your calendar you will see that it is a day off…. time zones, gotta love em.

So if we go by Powerhouse’s dates Staal’s return window should start soon (27th Dec), just after Christmas.  He is not late.  The team hasn’t been holding anything back.  I think as fans we have just wanted to get him on the ice.  Unfortunately due to the foot injury and now a totally unrelated injury (his hand), it is a long time since Staal has been on the ice.

The other issue we have with predicting this damn break is what bone did he break? You can see from the diagram below that Staal has a truck load of bones to break.  If we think about the design of a hockey glove and the impact of collision sports we can try to narrow down the location of the break in the hand. The most likely place Staal could have broken his hand is in all the little bones that look like squares.  It could most likely be the scaphoid on the inside of the hand or the pisiform on the outside of the hand.

With the latest X-rays being taken after the pin was removed the other day, there are a couple of things that could have cropped up. The amount of calcification the doctor was hoping for in the bone did not happen, therefore the amount of healing left is a lot longer than everyone is hoping for. There could have been ‘too much’ calcification.  If the bone broken was in the area we were looking at, the problem with this is those tiny bones may have started to fuse together. Obviously this is a problem that would need to be fixed straight away, how that is done, I am not entirely sure. Don’t ask guys, I am not a doctor!

So if you are looking for my opinion on the details that are coming out from the Penguins on Staal’s hand. I don’t think they have hidden anything from us, and unlike some sources, Staal doesn’t seem to have a break in the hand, I would put money on there being ‘some’ calcification but not as much as everyone expected or wants. This will mean there is a chance Staal may not be back until after the Winter Classic, which for all of us, and especially Staal, sucks.

On Mike Comrie:

A quick little bit on the hip injury to Comrie: It came out a couple of days ago that Mike Comrie has/had a serious hip injury he was trying to play through at the start of the year. If you go back and read on my piece on Crosby’s hip you will read how it is graded and some of the issues that Comrie may have had to deal with whilst trying to carry the injury. I would suggest Comrie had a grade I tear and the injury developed as he tried to play through it.  It then developed into a grade II tear and that would have been when the training staff put him on the shelf. There is too much work for the hip flexors to do in the game of hockey to ‘play through the rehab’ as Bylsma put it.

It also explains why he had no power in his first two skating strides, no ability to stay on his skates, was gliding on the ice a lot and had a look of total disinterest on the ice. I would suggest he was in a fair amount of pain and this impacted and hampered his ability to play never mind at the NHL level.

This shows you the difference between an athlete and an elite athlete. The conditioning of Crosby meant his body didn’t deteriorate like Comrie’s did.  Crosby was able to recover whilst Comrie’s injury became worse. The other factor is the ‘clip’ Comrie received on his hip was obviously much more severe than what Crosby went through.

As I tried to re-iterate in my Crosby piece you can see why trying to play through a hip flexor injury is close to impossible.  We can all agree we have been a bit miffed as to the lack lustre play of Comrie, unless this man has no desire to go deep into the playoffs with this team I put it down to his hip.

Some of you guys will probably be wanting to point some fingers here at who should be to blame on the hip, the foot, the hand, Kunitz missing games, Geno and his knee because the Penguins have not had a great run with the treatment of some of these things. Kunitz is always going to be banged up; we all know that, Geno’s knee, I don’t think anyone is ever going to know about that one…. The foot, well, that is part player, part coaching staff, hand is all bad luck, the hip flexor a lot of this I put on the player believe it or not.

This is an injury that a player can play through if it is not going to hinder them too badly. The problem is you run the risk of making the injury worse. I find it annoyingly selfish to see players out there under performing due to injury when they could be rehabbing and a fit roster player could be filling in their role until they are back. Have faith in your team mate to do their job for you. Comrie now runs the risk of having to have surgery and missing the rest of regular season, then having to ‘hope’ that someone gets injured during the playoffs to have a chance to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup, who wants that?

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About Brian Metzer

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Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Brian Metzer has been covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and National Hockey League since 2004. He is the host of Penguins Live Weekly, a show that airs Saturday mornings on 105.9 the X and iHeart Radio. He serves as the Pittsburgh Penguins correspondent for NHL Network Radio on SiriusXM, and is the NHL and Penguins correspondent for the Beaver County Times. Metzer is also a contributing writer for NHL.com and is the primary contributor for this site www.fromthepoint.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Susan

    December 22, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Impressive article! Now I GET it! Thanks for sharing!

  2. bryan wodaski

    December 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

    nice job Washy!

  3. Evilpens

    December 22, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Good Job as always Washy !!

  4. susan from Melbourne Australia

    December 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Mark Madden has said today that it will be another 3 weeks before Jordan returns which means it’s probably going to be January 16 game against Boston.