The Implications of Brooks Laich’s Injury

Posted February 5, 2012

Photo by Alena Schwarz

During Sunday’s game between the Capitals and Bruins, Brooks Laich went off the ice with a knee injury. From replays, it looked like Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins caught Laich with a knee-on-knee while taking him into the boards for a clean check. He came back onto the ice during a break in the action to skate around, but he was still grimacing in pain and then returned to the locker room for the rest of the afternoon. The team has listed Laich as day-to-day, with further evaluations to be done tomorrow.

So, now what happens?

If it wasn’t done already, Laich will have CAT scans and MRI’s to reveal the true seriousness of his injury. With knees (or with any hinge joint, such as your elbow), it can be anything: from a minor hyperextension to a tear of tendons or ligaments. I will try to break this all down for you, but the only good thing that came out of this is that he attempted to skate after the injury. It doesn’t necessary mean that he didn’t tear any ligaments or tendons, but if he completely tore something the likelihood of him even being able to skate off on his own power would’ve been slim to none. I do come from a medical background and have some knowledge in anatomy and physiology, so I will break down some different scenarios to his injury,

A hyperextension is pretty much what you think it is. Everyone’s joints can only go so far, and if that joint gets pushed further than that due to a collision, fall, or landing on it the wrong way it causes obvious discomfort. At worst, it can cause ligament and tendon damage but more than likely it will cause swelling, bruising, and pain. He may sit out of practice a few days just so he doesn’t cause further damage to it and get treated by the trainer with ice and the electronic stimulation machine (if you haven’t seen one or had one hooked up to you, it has two nodes on it in which a trainer places pads on the nodes. The pads go on the affected area, and electric pulses go through the pads onto your knee and helps gain strength in the area where the pads are placed.) At worst, he will be out approximately 2-3 weeks, just as precautionary measure.

The next thing it could possibly be is injury or damage to the cartilage of the knee. Cartilage is a material that is made up of proteins that sits between two bones (in the knee, it would sit between the femur and the tibia) and it causes a buffer so that way when the joint moves the bones don’t rub against each other. The problem with cartilage injuries is that there’s no direct bloodflow to the area, so recovery takes an extremely long time. Treatment for this could be as simple as icing it, taking ibuprofen, and keeping off of it to having to see a specialist. If it’s torn, he would have to get arthroscopic surgery to repair the damaged cartilage. If that is the case, he would be out for approximately one month, which would put him back in time for the Capitals to make a playoff rush.

The final (and the worst possible scenario) would be damage to the tendons and ligaments to the knee. Ligaments connect bone to bone and tendons connect muscle to bone. What’s worrisome for Laich is that hinge joints have a lot of tendons and ligaments to them (for example, the knee’s ligaments consist of the ACL, MCL, LCL, and the PCL.) He would go much testing to see if the tendon or ligament was just sprained or if it was torn, and if it was torn, how bad the tear is. If it’s just a sprain, he will be out a few weeks just to make sure he doesn’t further injure the knee. If it’s torn, then there’s a serious issue. That type of injury requires surgery and he could be out at least six months. It could even take a full year for Laich to get back into playing shape, and his knee may not really be the same after that.

So what does this all mean for the Capitals and roster moves?

If all Laich did was hyperextend his knee, there really is no issue. The need to go out and acquire a center wouldn’t be so immediate (although they will end up trading for one at the deadline). However, anything further than that would probably incite George McPhee to go out and trade for a center. In the meantime, expect Cody Eakin to be recalled from Hershey until team doctors can determine the severity of the injury, figure out a treatment plan, and determine how long Laich will be out of action.