Health and fitness

Dr. Flynn’s Mailbag: On the possible/impossible returns of Hayward, Edelman, Hightower and turf toe

(Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Hi everyone, hope you had a great week! I asked for a few good…or even mediocre questions this week and you all did NOT disappoint. Clearly, mediocrity is not in the BSJ vocabulary! If you didn’t contribute a question this week, I’d love to hear from you for future editions, so make sure you check out the contact information at the bottom of the page.

Quite a few Patriots questions this week: is it possible that some high-profile, early-season injuries potentially make a late-season return? And Gordon Hayward’s wife posted a photo on Instagram of him out of his boot! Is he ahead of schedule and ready to return sooner than planned? You’ll have to read to find out. But first, a question from a loyal reader about…the Chicago Cubs??

Jason Heyward has been seen out of his walking boot. Many speculate he could return to the team THIS year, is this smart? Is his injury one that would be better served with more rest and rehab or is healed? (Murph, @TMurph207)

Clearly, Murph has baseball on the brain — I think the Cubs’ right fielder Jason Heyward is happily not in a walking boot and, coincidentally, the Celtics’ Gordon Hayward is working out of his as well! (Murph’s son is a young superstar pitcher, so he’s completely immersed in red clay and knee-high socks). Hayward’s injury, a tibiotalar fracture-dislocation, generally takes 4-6 months to heal. Athletes with this injury are often bearing full weight by 6-8 weeks in a boot, walking without a boot by 3 months, and return to practice by 4-6 months. This puts Gordon Hayward right on track for a 4-6 month return to practice, somewhere around late March/early April.

Ankle fracture-dislocations are difficult to work back from, especially for basketball players. Tremendous amounts of force and torque are transmitted through the relatively small ankle joint. Often, the ankle is stiffer than prior to the injury and it can take many months to fully retrain the tiny nerves in the joint responsible for reflexive fine balance (called proprioception). While Hayward sounds to be doing a great job keeping active, even shooting from a chair a few weeks after surgery, it will take some time to get him feeling physically and mentally confident with his “new” ankle. I am hesitant to even say this because I don’t want it to be interpreted as “Gordon Hayward didn’t work hard enough to be back sooner, or Hayward isn’t physically or mentally gifted enough to be the fastest to return from an injury like this.” Everyone wants to be Adrian Peterson, they want to defy the odds and return for a record-breaking season before any athlete ever has before him or her. But sometimes that results in bad outcomes — stress fractures, other injuries. The Celtics organization has done an impressive job at managing expectations for Gordon Hayward’s return — stating many times that they do not expect him back this season. Yes, the door is open for a playoff return, but I am not expecting one. If he does come back this season, it will likely be on a significant play-count at less than 100%. And that will not be because of lack of effort, will, natural gift, physical or mental toughness. The guy’s a star. Can’t wait to see him play.

Could you apply the same level analysis to the Gordon Hayward injury as you did to Julian Edelman’s ACL injury? Is it not likely that his jumping (and perhaps cutting) ability will be affected? (Paul Solman)