Penguins

Walshy’s World: Walshy Breaks Down Jordan Staal’s Injury…

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(Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

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…

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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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18 Comments

  1. tangent_man

    May 2, 2010 at 1:19 am

    I sliced through a tendon in my arm (at the wrist) when I put my hand through a window as a kid. The doctor had to go in and retrieve the tendon from however far back into my arm it relaxed itself and reattach it.

    I don’t recall exactly how long the recovery time was, but it was quite a while before the full range of motion was restored.

    Nice job, Walshy; very informative. I look forward to reading more in-depth info about the injuries that are suffered by the players. I just hope it doesn’t take someone else getting hurt to spur your next entry.

  2. Profile photo of Brian Metzer

    Brian Metzer

    May 2, 2010 at 1:25 am

    The good news in this situation is that Staal’s tendon is apparently just lacerated… still bad, but at least it isn’t severed…

    Walshy will most likely be doing a regular columnn on injuries etc starting next season… will chime in intermittently until then!

  3. Cari

    May 2, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Hi Cameron, thanks for your expert analysis on this situation. Have the Penguins or Staal’s doctor confirmed that the tendon in question is the EHL? I haven’t seen this anywhere — I’ve heard it described as a tendon that runs to a toe, but not one that runs to the big toe. I can only find one reference to a big toe on sportsnet.ca, citing Bylsma, but that wasn’t reported anywhere else. If the lacerated tendon is not “A” but one of the “B” or “C” tendons would that make a difference?

    I’m confused because if Staal’s foot is injured as you describe, it seems like the team would not say that he is day to day and possible for future rounds. I’m not naive, and I know that teams try to mislead the press about injuries, but watching Bylsma it really seemed like they think he could come back, and I can’t reconcile that with what you are describing here. Either the team is flat out lying (certainly possible) or the injury is not like the dancer’s injury.

  4. Walshy

    May 2, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Let’s hope not, it’s going to be more about rehab or preparation for positions different training techniques and the like

  5. Walshy

    May 2, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Cari,

    The blog was written under the assumption that Subban’s skate cut Staal’s foot across his EHL. That tendon runs from his big toe right up to the start of the foot, basically along the laces.

    As Metz has said, thankfully the tendon hasnt been cut right through, either way surgery isn’t a walk in the park.

    The question about the other tendon’s, if they were cut it would be a similar problem, they pull the foot in different direction than the EHL.

    In regards to the duration it comes down to the severity of the cut, just like this case we have here.

    As you said, playoffs are always a hard thing to get solid information out of coaching staff when it comes to injuries. I hope Staal is back, Im just not holding my breath, thats all.

    If you have more questions fire away, if I dont know the answer I will definitely go and find them for you! That was the point of adding this in for Brian, to give a deeper look into hockey.

  6. Jmw66

    May 2, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Great article, looking forward to more in the future, although hopefully not too many about injured Pens. 🙂

    When I saw the Craig Adams quote Friday night that the laces on Staal’s skate had been cut I was afraid of that there was some sort of laceration. I understand the players wanting light weight, etc, etc. but it’s almost hard to believe that a blade could cut through the skate so easily. As Walshy said, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often.

  7. Evilpens

    May 2, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Walshy !! Good Blog!! I hope your wrong about how long, But You know you’re Stuff !!!!

  8. Styphon

    May 2, 2010 at 7:50 am

    This has happened to sabres player Paul gaustad in 2007. It was listed as “ankle injury” but was a EHL laceration that required surgical repair. He ended up missing 26 regular season games and 9 playoff games – a little under 3 months.

  9. Walshy

    May 2, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Everyone,

    thanks for the feedback, you never know how your blog is going to be taken. Glad you’re getting some value out of it, as I have said, any questions I’ll try to answer if I don’t know I’ll try to find it!

    CW

  10. scpensfan

    May 2, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Walshy, Thanks for the medical input.

    Metz, You’re doing a great job. Please keep up the good work.

  11. OneSmugPug

    May 2, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Solid info that goes beyond standard fare blogging material. Very smart, gentlemen!

  12. Evilpens

    May 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Maybe Now Walshy you can explain the Lobotomy that the Coaching Staff & lots of the Players need

  13. 60sixx

    May 3, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Nice job, Walshy! Great read!

  14. Walshy

    May 4, 2010 at 5:21 am

    Guys I just heard Steve Mears say that Staal’s tendon was only cut, not severed. We have always been working under the assumption his tendon was lacerated (same word as cut by the way) not severed, if it was he would be done no question.

    The way Mears put it, the ‘cut’ was minor so Staal is day to day. I don’t know about you guys but no surgery where I have had to be cut open is ‘minor’ and not for something that needs to have parts of it put back together.

    I really hope I’m wrong and Staal comes back and is at the least 85% effective as he was before the injury because they are definitely going to rush him back. If he is not going to be effective get him off the ice and let him heal.

    Let’s wait and see what happens next!! Fingers crossed!

  15. Evilpens

    May 4, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Well Walshy I always thought that when doing surgery, they let the trauma to the Area subside before doing surgery Unless it was Life Threatening.

    So that is why I was always hopeful that Stall would be back

  16. Evilpens

    May 4, 2010 at 11:03 am

    MONTREAL — Penguins center Jordan Staal, who is recovering from surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his right foot, skated with his teammates before the Penguins’ game-day skate at the Bell Centre today.

    Staal was wearing a warmup suit, not the usual practice jerseys, but put considerable weight on his right foot, the one that required surgery after he was stepped on by Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban Friday.

    He officially is listed as “day to day,” and there is no known target date for him to return.

  17. Heath

    May 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Great post Walshy. Look forward to more in depth info from you in the future.

  18. Cathy

    May 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I would like to know the name of the doctor that performed this miracle!