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Podiatry in Sports: A deeper look into Pavel Datsyuk’s ankle injury

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk is on schedule in his rehab from ankle surgery, general manger Ken Holland told MLive on Tuesday.

Datsyuk, 37, had surgery to repair ruptured tendons in his right ankle on June 26 and will be re-evaluated in mid-September by Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed the procedure in Charlotte, N.C.

“Right now, all the news I’m getting is positive,” said Holland. “I think he’s on schedule. The doctor told us it was a minimum of three months to heal. Does he get the green light to skate lightly or will he be held back for a period of time?”

In an interview on Russian television last month, Datsyuk said it might be “four or five months” after surgery before he returns to form, meaning he expects to make his 2015-16 debut in either in late October or November or at the earliest.

Dr. Ian Goldbaum, a board certified podiatrist with over 30 years of experience, has treated numerous tendon-related injuries during his lengthy tenure in medicine and speculates that Datsyuk’s estimated recovery time indicates that he likely suffered a peroneal tendon injury.

A peroneal tendon rupture is a complete tear in one of the two peroneal tendons on the outside of the ankle. These tendons attach two muscles (peroneus longus and peroneus brevis) to the bones of the ankle. These tendons lie in a groove on the side of the ankle and are injured most often injured while competing in multi-directional sports that require sudden, explosive muscle contractions.

“When he’s skating, it’s multi-directional,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “He’s not just going straight; he’s frequently stopping and turning which puts a lot of stress on the tendon, especially on the insertion point.”

Datsyuk, who notched 26 goals and 65 points in 63 regular-season games, was bothered by the ankle injury late last season and missed eight of the Red Wings final 14 games. And although it might be an unpopular opinion in today’s play-through-the-pain culture, Dr. Goldbaum speculates that Datsyuk’s attempt to tough it out likely only served to exacerbate the issue.

“When you injury something, you’ve got to get off of it and you’ve got to let it rest,” said Dr. Goldbaum. “He played through it. Sometimes you can, but even when it’s wrapped, if it’s that bad of an injury you have to rest.”

In terms of a likely recovery process, Dr. Goldbaum notes that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is being used more frequently for its effectiveness in the treatment of injuries. PRP is plasma that contains more platelets than what is typically found in blood. These platelets contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are very important in the healing of injuries. This process has become especially popular in recent years with famous athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal using PRP to treat their injuries.

“We take the patients blood and we spin it,” Dr. Goldbaum said of the PRP process. “We take out the plasma part, which has all of the growth factors, so we can get it to heal faster. I’m not sure if they used that with (Datsyuk), but that’s a big deal today.”

While an exact diagnosis of Datsyuk’s injury remains unknown, a peroneal tendon rupture would make senses given what we do known and, if he has undergone PRP treatment, a speedy return is more possible.

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