Flyers’ Pronger Talks About Surgery, Virus, Return

By David Strehle
ot Stove Managing Editor

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger has had a tough go of it for the past 15 months. Over that time he’s suffered five major injuries that have required surgeries, and had a close call with another when he took a high stick that nearly caught him in the right eye.

(Photo credit: Len Redkoles / NHLI / Getty Images)

He was forced to miss 32 games during the 2010-11 campaign, and missed all but three postseason contests last spring.

Coming into this year, Pronger missed most of training camp while recovering from back surgery in the spring, and saw just one game of exhibition action prior to the start of the 2011-12 regular season.

After getting off to a good start, he was hit with a stick on the follow through of a shot that very well could have been the end of his career. Lucky for him it was a near miss, just catching the edge of the orbital bone.

Pronger returned donning a visor after missing six games, but he “just didn’t feel well.” It even got to the point where he underwent baseline testing for a concussion, but it ended up being a virus, which knocked him out of the last seven games.

And then the left knee problem reared its head. Pronger had successful surgery yesterday, and plans on beginning rehabilitation on it tomorrow.

Without their captain in the lineup, they have gone just 5-4-1 in the 10 contests he has missed. Now they head west, where they will play in Anaheim tomorrow as they finish this four-game road trip that had a five day break in between games.

About the announced estimation of four weeks before he can return? Well, sounds like that is kind of up in the air and will be determined as he begins rehab work.

Below is the transcript of this morning’s conference call:

Q: When did you have your surgery and how are you feeling?

Pronger: I had the surgery on Tuesday afternoon. I’m feeling okay, just ice and elevation. Trying to get the swelling out, and I start my rehab tomorrow.

Q: Holmgren said the other day that you would be out for 4 weeks. Are you optimistic that it will be four weeks? Do you think you could be back sooner than that?

Pronger: I have no idea. Again, I had surgery two days ago, so  once I start getting my rehab going, as I progress through that I’ll know a bit more. Gauging off of when I had my other knee done a couple of years ago, a month sounds about right, but again, it may be 3 weeks, it may be 6 weeks, I don’t know. We just kind of gave a ballpark number because we don’t really know.

Q: You mentioned the other surgery, and that one took about 9 weeks. Homer said he thought that one was more involved. Did the doctors tell you what was different about this surgery compared to the one you had two years ago?

Pronger: There was a little bit more damage on the one a couple years ago. There were pretty big chunks they took out, and it was not as clean as this knee was. The doctor was pretty pleased when he got in there to see what exactly was involved, and was pretty pleased with what he saw.

Q: Did you feel like you were almost ready to come back from the virus and then this whole thing with the knee came up?

Pronger: Well, my knee had kind of been bothering me. It’s gradually gotten worse since I came back from the eye injury. When I stopped skating, as I started to try to work out, it started to bother me. I’d do daily workouts and try to do legs every other day, and it got to a point where I couldn’t do my leg workouts, so I knew something was wrong. I went and got the MRI and got a plan to get it fixed very quickly as opposed to last time, Tim, when you got mad at me for doing it so late. 

Q: Was there anything that you did when you played that would have contributed to this injury?

Pronger: Not that I know of. I don’t remember ever getting hit. I don’t remember ever catching it in a rut or doing anything. I don’t know what it’s from…I have a couple suspicions, but I don’t really know

Q: How frustrating is this for you? Last year you said was the season from hell and this year so far you’ve had three different issues. How tough it for you mentally now with this kind of start?

Pronger: Again, I was pretty pleased with how my summer went with training, and obviously got in a preseason game and felt like I got a pretty good start to the season. When you have a fluke injury where you get slashed in the face with a stick and now the knee, it’s a little disheartening. But I felt like I was playing pretty well when I got hurt the first time. It just sets you back. You’re just starting to get your rhythm, you’re starting to get in your groove and you’re comfort level is very high, and this kind of sets you back. I have to go through that whole process again whenever I do get back.

Q: How scary was the virus? When we asked Paul he didn’t really know what it was. He said there were tests but it wasn’t anything overly-serious…

Pronger: I just didn’t feel well. I didn’t know what it was, we said it was a virus but I didn’t know what it was. I had never felt like that before, where I had headaches and nausea and all the rest of that stuff. So I had a concussion test. I took the baseline test and passed that. I’ve just never felt like this where you get lightheaded, you have headaches, you’re nauseous. It’s been a bit of a mystery with what exactly is going on. I did some blood work, and we’re trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

 Q: Is this one of those things, with your surgery, where you might’ve been able to play but you wanted to take care of it so that when it comes time for the games that really matter—the playoffs—you can be 100 percent?

Pronger: I think if it was the playoffs or the Stanley Cup Final, I could play, but it was to the point where I wouldn’t have played very well. We can always say we can play but at what level and at what detriment are you playing? At this stage in the season, not knowing the other side of it, it was prudent to get it done now so that if I’m able to return in 4 weeks, let’s say, then I’m able to get 3 weeks in before the All Star break, and then put the hammer down after that, as we get into the playoff stretch.

Q: When you go through something like this– when you’ve had so many surgeries– do u do any soul searching and say, my body’s breaking down here, how long do I want to go through this? Or do you say to yourself, hey, I did have a fluke injury with the eye but now I have both of my knees taken care of so they should be good to go for a few more years?

Pronger: Well, you have to look at the injuries in their totality. I got hit with a puck, and I broke my foot. I got hit with a puck in the hand, and I broke my hand. I got slashed in the face and hurt my eye. The knees are things that, you know, I hurt my knee in the game against Boston in the Stanley cup playoffs and this one was from I don’t know what. The only one that was really perplexing was the back. I don’t really know how or what happened there and probably never will. It’s just one of those things. You look at the number of the injuries and they would seem to be kind of fluky. Three of them I got hit with the puck or a stick. Are those everyday hockey occurrences? Yeah, it could happen to anybody. When you play the game hard and you play a lot of minutes you’re that much more inclined to have something happen to you because you’re always out there. So you still have to take a look at it as, yeah, I’ve had a lot of surgeries and it takes a toll on your body but you’ve got to continue to follow rehab protocol and follow guidance of the doctors and try to make sure that you’re doing the best you can to take care of your body and take care of your mind at the same time to prepare yourself to be ready when you do get back.

Q: Just to be clear, are you still dealing with the effects of the virus? Or whatever you said you wanted to call it?

Pronger: Yeah, I’m not quite…again, we’re still trying to ascertain what’s going on, and like I said, I’ve never felt like this before so…I don’t really know what’s going on.

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