The Athletic Quotes Dr. David Hay: Surgeon Weighs In on Padres Fernando Tatis Jr.’s Prognosis After Wrist Surgery
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Surgeon weighs in on Tatis prognosis
The Padres have projected a three-month recovery for Tatis after the shortstop underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a fractured scaphoid bone in his left wrist. According to a hand and wrist surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, that timeline is “optimistic but … not unrealistic.” And there is a chance the bone does not heal properly, albeit a small one.
“It’s the most common bone in the wrist to break,” said Dr. David C. Hay, who has not evaluated or treated Tatis, “but also the most worrisome to break.”
The peanut-shaped scaphoid serves as the key bone that links the coordinated motion of the wrist. With such a fracture, Hay said, it is common for a patient to believe they merely jammed their wrist; in some cases, only after returning to high-intensity activities will the patient experience more significant pain.
That was the case for Tatis, who may have injured his scaphoid bone in an early December motorcycle accident. He later described not feeling acute pain until he started taking game-intensity swings around the beginning of March.
As both Tatis and the team acknowledged, the outcome might have been different were it not for the lockout. Immediately after the motorcycle accident, the Padres were only able to contact Tatis through third parties; they said they were led to believe he had not suffered a serious injury. The ban on direct communication did not lift until March 10. Three days later, Tatis arrived at the Peoria Sports Complex and underwent X-rays that revealed the fracture. His injury is one that does not always necessitate an operation.
“Had (treatment) not been delayed, it’s possible he could’ve treated it with just a cast,” said Hay, who also serves as a hand consultant for the Anaheim Ducks. “But now he’s had surgery, they’ve got the right thing going, and hopefully it’s just a matter of time before he’s back playing as well as he ever was.”
A typical scaphoid fracture repair can include the placement of a bone graft from the wrist or hip, as well as a screw to stabilize the scaphoid. A scaphoid fracture that does not heal is referred to as a scaphoid non-union. This can occur even after surgery, though it is more common among smokers and older people with other medical problems. But the length of time between Tatis’ initial injury and his surgery also could play a role.
“The longer the delay to his treatment, depending on where in the scaphoid the bone is broken … the higher the chance of (scaphoid nonunion),” Hay said.
If everything goes smoothly, though, it would not be impossible for Tatis to return before July.
“Since he’s a young, healthy, athletic guy, he has the best chance of this healing,” Hay said.