A look at Mikhail Sergachev’s recovery, prognosis after leg injury

After surgery to repair two fractures in his left leg, it’s possible Sergachev could return in the postseason if the Lightning go far.
Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev fractured his leg in two places during a game Wednesday in New York.
Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev fractured his leg in two places during a game Wednesday in New York. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Feb. 10

Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev’s recovery from a fractured tibia and fibula in his lower left leg likely will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, a top physician for an NHL team suggested to the Tampa Bay Times. But a postseason return is conceivable depending on how far the Lightning might get.

“I would be shocked if you got back in the next two months, but depending on the fracture, it’s possible,” said Dr. Brian Schulz, the head orthopedic surgeon for the Anaheim Ducks.

The Lightning entered Saturday’s game in Columbus with just 30 games remaining in the regular season, which ends for them April 17 in Toronto. But Schulz said the longer the Lightning could extend a potential playoff run — they currently sit in the first wild-card position in the East — the more likely Sergachev returns.

“I think that’s a very fast return,” Schultz said of Sergachev coming back before the postseason. “I don’t know the specifics of the injury. If he had a very straight-forward fracture that was away from the joint and the fixation is strong, then maybe. But that would be a very quick timeline.

“That being said, if they’re playing in the postseason, that’s another (two to) three months potentially to where he could make it back.”

Sergachev was injured in the second period of Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, his left leg turning awkwardly under his own weight after making contact with Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere while pursuing the puck in the corner. Sergachev was carted off the ice, sitting up on a stretcher, and had surgery Thursday in New York to stabilize the bones. He is expected to return to Tampa this weekend to begin his rehabilitation.

Coming out of Thursday’s surgery, the Lightning were optimistic, as it appeared the factures were clean and didn’t impact any ligaments.

Schulz, also the head orthopedic surgeon for the Los Angeles Angels and a physician with the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, said you see injuries like Sergachev’s only about once or twice a year in the NHL. It’s typically a freak instance where a leg gets caught or a player hits the boards awkwardly.

The rehabilitation that Sergachev likely faces initially would include strengthening the muscles in his leg without putting stress on the bone as it heals. That can be accomplished by working in a pool, Schulz said, and would allow Sergachev to limit the muscle mass he loses and more easily bring it back when he can begin bearing weight on the leg. Bones tend to heal faster than ligaments, and they tend to heal rather well, Schulz said, but how long it takes for Sergachev to bear weight on the leg will dictate the timetable for a return.

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“You’re looking at probably two to three months for the bone to completely heal, maybe a little bit quicker in a professional athlete,” Schulz said. “They tend to heal a little bit faster than maybe the average person. A lot of it, too, depends on where the bone was broken and how they were able to fix it. If it entered into the joints, you’ve got to be a little careful and limit the weight bearing up front. ...

“If it’s more of the longer part of the bone, he may be able to weight bear faster depending on how they fixed it. So some of that stuff will factor into it as well because the sooner you can weight bear, the less muscle he’ll lose from not walking around on it, but you’ve also got to protect whatever you fix, too, while it’s healing.

“If he starts weight bearing at like six weeks, and he started skating at eight weeks (then) maybe he’s playing in 12 weeks. But it’s really hard to know exactly.”

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