John Tavares’ knee recovery is the most important injury recovery in Islanders history. The future of the franchise rests on the full recovery of his left knee.
If Tavares has any niggling issues with the knee throughout his career, it will hold him back, not allowing him to carry this franchise to the promised land.
As we now know Tavares does not need surgery to repair his left meniscus and medical collateral ligament (MCL). It would have been very tempting for the surgeon to go in and slice and dice Tavares knee back to health. whenever possible I feel it is best to go the natural healing route, the less surgery the less chance of complications.
There are reasons for having the surgery, rather than let it heal naturally. A torn meniscus can be problematic. If the tear is big enough it can constantly get ‘caught’ in the knee and can be quite painful.
This symptom can cause a surgeon to find cause to go in and clean up the rip or tear. The theory being it will only get worse as the femur will catch on the problem and exacerbate it.
The meniscus is pretty important to the knee, it acts like a buffer or shock absorber; the femur rests on the meniscus that is attached to the tibia.
Due to the fact there is no blood flow to the meniscus, there is zero chance of it growing back. So going in and clipping a tear means Tavares would lose some of that buffer between his femur and tibia.
If there is no need to clip some of it off, it is less likely that Tavares will need to keep going back to have a ‘scrape/cleanout’ at the end of each season.
The medial ligament helps with the stability of the knee, it stops the knee from buckling inward, that is unless someone falls onto your knee from the lateral (outside) side of the knee and forces it inward.
If Tavares had a grade III tear he would have had to have surgery, as this is a total tear of the ligament. However with the ligament still being together, in Tavares words “basically it is just a bad MCL tear, not a complete tear but pretty close” it is classed as a Grade II tear. Grade II tears can be allowed to heal on their own, as I said earlier if you can avoid the surgery, do so.
This is Tavares second MCL injury on his left knee; he injured it at 16 trying out for the Under-18 Canadian team. This being his second MCL injury has no effect on how he moves ahead now.
Tavares rehab is all about his muscle strength around the knee. He can’t rehabilitate the actual ligament. Once the tear has healed he can start his rehab.
The most important muscle for Tavares to strengthen is his VMO, this muscle will help protect and ‘strengthen’ the tendon. The VMO attaches around the MCL, so strengthening the VMO will have a tightening effect on the ligament, giving the feeling of a stronger tendon, even though the tendon has not physically changed by the strengthening of the muscles.
Skaters tend to have extremely strong VMO’s naturally; it comes from their skating stride. The challenge for Tavares will be getting the VMO strong enough without letting the change in physiology changing his skating stride.
I expect Tavares to make a full recovery and get back on the ice 100%. His attention to detail on the ice should do him well in the gym as he recovers from this set back. The league will be a better place with Tavares 100% next season, here is to a perfect recovery.