By: Cameron Walsh
Reports are out that Jordan Staal has had his Extensor Hallucis Longus tendon operated on, or to the rest of us, the tendon that moves his big toe. It is also the tendon that pulls the foot up. So it’s an injury he can do without and one that could end his playoff run.
Now we won’t know the severity of Staal’s lacerated tendon just like we didn’t know Gonchar had partially torn his Medial Collateral Ligament in his knee in the Capitals series last year until after the playoffs. What we do know is he had surgery, and that can’t be great. Usually surgery means part A needs to be reattached to part B somewhere.
Metz has already bought up the memories of last year when Gonchar was out for Games 5 and 6 and came back for Game 7 against the Capitals. The injury itself was as severe as Staal’s. The MCL had a partial tear, so it wasn’t totally torn, if it was, surgery would have been required, and Gonchar would have been done for that playoff run.
The knee bends forwards and backwards, not side to side. The ligaments are there to stop the knee from moving out of alignment or too far in one direction. So for Gonchar it came down to putting a brace on to stop the extra movement from the damaged ligament and adjusting to the pain and feel of the brace for the rest of the playoffs.
Back to Staal’s foot injury, the foot moves in 360 degrees but it has many different tendons pulling at it to make it move in that range of motion. The one tendon we are concerned with here is (A), you can see how Subbanʼs skate blade would have cut the tendon through the top of the skate, especially with today’s skates having no protection along the laces.
The recovery for tendon injuries isn’t always cut and dry. A broken foot, like Jeff Carter’s for instance is a 4 week injury with 3 weeks in a cast and 1 week walking cast free. Then you can get back skating and play when you feel strong. Carter came back onto the ice in 18 days (just over 2 1/2 weeks), he never got back up to speed and now is not playing in the playoffs with yes another foot injury.
Structural injuries are easier to diagnose than tendon or ligament or even muscular injuries, bones as a rule are very stable in their healing process. Back to Staal’s tendon, after doing some research and trying to find someone who is close to an athlete, I found a dancer who took 18 weeks to get back on her feet dancing after lacerating her Extensor Hallucis Longus. 18 weeks for a lacerated not severed tendon. I am hoping that Staal’s tendon is not severed either. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of the brevity of the injury and the possibility of him returning for another playoff game this season.
Postoperatively, Staal will probably be put in a below knee cast 5 days after the surgery. Definitely no weight bearing during this time. In normal circumstances Staal shouldn’t be weight bearing for 6 weeks in that cast making sure his toes are out of the end of the cast.
After those 6 weeks Staal should then be placed in a below-knee walking cast that allows weight bearing (we call this a moon boot in Australia) his heal and lateral aspect of his foot for 6 more weeks. That would take Staal out to 12 weeks in a cast, and then he would have to get himself back up to walking without a limp let alone skating again, so give him the next 6 to get going again. A total of 18 weeks. For me reports of him returning before the end of playoffs with this injury are hopeful at best.
I am actually amazed that this laceration across the top of the skate doesn’t happen more often, given the lack of protection today’s skates provide. I am glad it doesn’t but has the need to be the best compromised safety in the new lightweight gear all players wear?
In the end as much as I want to see Staal back on the ice this playoff run, if he has sliced this tendon I don’t think it would be good for his future skating ability or for his immediate ability to help the team if he comes back early. You need your feet to feel solid and trustworthy on the ice, if Staal comes back early and doesn’t feel good on his feet, he will either re-injure his foot or worse, something else as his body compensates for his weakened body part and at 21 and a rising star we don’t want
**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…