Walshy’s World: Staal, The Saga Continues

Our resident physical trainer, Cameron Walsh, takes another look at Jordan Staal’s current recovery. Some great info on what might be happening in his PT process…

(Walshy takes another look at the Jordan Staal situation. A very informative read that details the situation and what Staal might be going through during his current recovery. – Ed.)

By Cameron Walsh

This was going to start off as a massive rant about how this and that should have been done to avoid what has happened to JS11. I then realized that really isn’t going to inform anyone about the process that Jordan is about to go through.

This is what happens when you have a 22yr old kid who has never missed a pro game in his life. He wants to play, if you give him the option to have a quick surgery and get back on the ice in Stanley Cup playoffs, what do you think he is going to do? What are you going to do? You don’t have to be Einstein to work that one out….

This is the 3rd time Staal has had his foot cut open since April 30 and I don’t think many people really put a lot into how much that actually traumatizes the body. Many people just assume athletes can just take on a surgery and come back, in 2008 a Brisbane Lions player by the name of Matthew Leuenberger got a staff infection and missed the entire season whilst losing 10kgs. (roughly 22 lbs – ed.)

Players often don’t come back from surgery the player they once were; this is often the case with knee reconstruction’s especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. This is often due to the extra muscle required to add to the body to help keep the knee in place. Even with the new LARS surgery, players still lose a step.

I never liked the idea of rushing back a 22 yr old with a lacerated tendon in a sport that relies so much on the manipulation of foot movement.

As I have been compiling this, Ray Shero was interviewed on Mark Madden’s radio show on the Pens HD2 station. Shero admitted the tendon was severed and not lacerated. This being the case then Staal coming back on that foot early will not be helping now, no matter what the team is saying about how that first surgery didn’t affect the second. The more surgeries you have more chances you have to have something go wrong. As I have said before, there is playing hurt and there is playing injured; a totally severed tendon needs much more time and REST to heal than a lacerated tendon.

Once the foot is classed as recovered from surgery, I assume Staal will be given all the time required to complete a full ‘off season’ schedule and then his own ‘camp’ to get up to speed physically so he is not under prepared. Max Talbot of last year comes to mind, he came back when he had his shoulder up to speed but before he had his legs and cardiovascular fitness back. All season you could tell he was half a step behind because of it.

From Rob Rossi on the Tribune Review Web site Tuesday 21st:

“Center Jordan Staal was re-evaluated by the Penguins’ medical staff Monday morning, and the team provided no update on his status. Staal’s right foot, operated on twice during the summer because of infected tissue, was covered by protective casing. He is using crutches. Staal is expected to speak publicly Wednesday for the first time since the Penguins announced last Thursday he will miss between five and six weeks.”

It will be interesting to see what Staal and the club has to say when he does come out and speak about all of this, it must be crushing for him. He was about to get top 6 minutes for the first time in his career since his rookie season and get them in his natural center position.

What I want to do is give an outline in the process in getting JS11 back on the ice and up to 100% again, not 65% or 90% by rushing him back early.

After surgery 6 weeks to mend: 4 on crutches 2 off and then physical therapy. Staal has basically completed the time in the cast for the repair surgery. So the recovery time in a cast for the clean up job just had should be much shorter.

A typical rehab program for an EHL tendon recovery.

What Staal will be trying to do is retrain his brain to activate the tendon to move his toe.

Week 1 of Physical Therapy; every day exercises:

•             3 sets of 20 repetitions: dorsi-flexion.

•             1 min sets, 3 repetitions: calf stretch, hamstring stretch. [Using thera-bands (light resistance)]

Note: All exercises done in a prone position; legs elevated.

Week 2 of Physical Therapy; every day exercises:

•           3 sets of 20 repetitions; dorsi-flexion.

•           1 min sets, 3 repetitions: calf stretch, hamstring stretch.  [Using thera-bands (light resistance)]

•           1 set of 10 repetitions; dorsi-flexion (hold 5 sec), center, planta-flexion (hold 5 sec); [Using thera-bands (medium resistance)] {Driving/Gas Pedal Exercise} Increase to 30 as week progresses.

•           Slowly and without moving the knee; write the alphabet in the air with the foot using the ankle.

•           Hands on resistance; pull the foot up/down/left/right 10x each.

Note: At the end of each session, the foot and ankle are electronically pulsed (tense machine) while applying ice.

From here Staal will have the unenviable task of having to balance his body out. Now this is going to take a fair bit of work. I would imagine that Mike Kadar (Penguins Strength and Conditioning Coach) will have this already mapped out. The weight progressions will be slow to begin with but it will be an off set program. With the focus on having a higher repetition base on the left side of the lower body to play catch up enough so he can start loading heavy weight to increase strength.

The program will probably be on a 2 or 3 hour split twice a day that will progress pretty quickly. The one good thing about being an athlete (and this is going to sound contradictory I know) is they can recover quicker than us non-athletes due to their superior conditioning.

Staal we know needs to get beyond the health and fitness levels of us plebs and up to his previous level before he can hit the ice again.

The on-ice activities are well beyond my purview guys, I’m sure you know what power skating drills, start stop, agility, etc Staal will have to go through before he will be allowed to get into a game situation. Obviously he will have to go through full contact training at some stage too. That leads me to where to go once given the all clear to play, the Penguins or the Baby Pens.

I have been informed by a very good source (our very own Pug) that players can do a conditioning assignment in the AHL. I would think/HOPE they do this with Staal, I know it seems stupid/silly to ‘waste’ games down in the AHL. However you look at the time it will take to get him right and what is really at stake here, a 100% healthy Staal ready for 55+ games and playoffs. I wouldn’t be upset at all if he misses all of October and all of November, I know he won’t be happy but in reality the time frame to actually get his toe to move and then weight bare properly is quite a long time.

So guys and girls there you have it…. I hope this helps a little bit, after getting my blood to settle a little I hope I was able to give a little bit of an insight into some background on where Staal and the team may have to go to get him back on the ice later in the season.

**Melbourne, Australia’s own Cameron Walsh is a personal trainer by trade, he owns and operates dLuxe Health and Fitness. Walshy is a life long hockey/NHL/Penguins fan and he will be chiming in from time to time on various injuries that pop up in and around this game that we all know and love. He also bears a striking resemblance to the USS Hal Gill… just saying…


6 Comments on this Post

  1. Great article Walshy.

  2. Boy I;m tired just reading it : )

  3. Gunner Staal

    You’re the man Walshy.

  4. good article…as an orthpedic surgeon, the rush back never made sense to me, but none of us knew exactly what happened and what the injury extent was…the scary part to me is that none of the rehab matters if the tendon doesn’t heal and the infection isn’t cleared…don’t know what bacteria grew in culture, but lets all hope that it is sensitive to antibiotics and didn’t spread to the ankle joint itself…that could be devastating…fingers crossed…thnx walshy

  5. Solid Walshy. You write some good stuff, I’m glad Metz brought you on board over here!

  6. Thanks for the comments guys, as Tangetman has said previously it would be good to do some articles on stuff that is not immediate injury related. I do have something in the pipeline, however it will take time to get out.

    Thanks for the positive comments once again guys! Its fun doing this and being involved from so far away and helping contribute.

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