Blue Jays Expect Saunders to Return by Mid-April
Cue a collective sigh of relief. Michael Saunders’ injury timeline has been pushed forward by about three months. He will likely be back by mid-April and, best case scenario, might only miss a few games or maybe even none at all. Initially, the depressing prognosis had the new Blue Jays left fielder out until the All Star break. While some were panicking out of proportion with that news, there was a general sense of here-we-go-again; we’re back behind the 8-ball.
Admittedly, it put a large hole in an already questionable outfield. Saunders wasn’t only the left fielder, he was a guy who could take up the reins in centre if Pompey faltered. People scrambled looking for the best in-house replacements, trade possibilities and even the rumour of Dayan Viciedo took shape. Thankfully all that, especially the Viciedo thing, is now moot.
With Saunders only being out 3-12 games, there is no point looking outside the organization for a place holder. The Jays will likely look to Kevin Pillar and Chris Dickerson to cover the few games that Saunders’ will miss. When Saunders returns, either Pillar will be sent down or Dickerson will put on waivers. If both Pillar and Dickerson aren’t performing well enough for a 4th outfielder role, perhaps Andy Dirks will be ready by then.
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There is, of course, the concern that after seemingly overestimating, the Blue Jays are now underestimating his recovery time. Rehab timing stated by the club has been inconsistent and inaccurate with other players in the past. However, a return to competition after a partial meniscectomy in 5-6 weeks is consistent with medical literature. The Jays were originally assuming that Saunders would undergo meniscal repair. A return to competition in that scenario is usually 5-6 months, so the Jays were actually underestimating based on the information they originally had. In a strange way, the Jays were lucky that Saunders’ injury was more severe than they believed. One could argue that Jays should have just not said anything about recovery time until the surgeon actually got in there and realized that a meniscectomy was necessary. But hey, it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver.
The other issue is how the removal of part of Saunders’ meniscus will affect him long term. There’s no doubt that a meniscal repair would have been better for Saunders long term but were talking likely 8 years down the road. 8 years after partial meniscectomies “62% of the patients rated their knees as excellent or good” and athletes can usually continue participation in sports for 10-15 years after the procedure. So probably at the end of Saunders’ playing career, he’ll be dealing with knee pain of some degree but that’s a long way down the road. After his career, arthritis could eventually be an issue. Of course all of this is dependant on exactly what the details of the injury were (which the public is not privy to).
(This video shows the type of injury and procedure similar to what Saunders underwent)
Will he be the same player in the short term? Brief answer, yes. Long answer: “Early after surgery, 92% of patients had excellent or good results, in terms of knee pain, swelling, ROM, squatting.” It’s important to understand that the purpose of the menisci of the knee is shock absorption. The stability, strength and range of motion of the knee joint are due to other structures—which in Saunders are healthy. After the rehab period, Saunders should be able to perform up to or beyond pre-injury levels. Saunders’ return to play will be dictated by his quadriceps muscle strength more than anything else. Beyond that, it’s mainly a matter of pain tolerance. Athletes generally return to competition when the quad in the injured limb has 90% strength compared to the uninjured limb. That usually occurs in 5-8 weeks. Again, everyone’s different and we don’t know the exact details but this is generally the path that rehabilitation of this procedure takes.
To sum up, whew…quite a scare but Saunders will be fine and so will the team. Knock on wood.