The Washington Capitals got some tough news, as Nicklas Backstrom underwent left hip resurfacing surgery on Friday. Per the team, he faces a “lengthy recovery process” and rehabilitation that he will begin immediately. However, given the procedure, some are wondering if No. 19 will be able to continue his career.
Backstrom had undergone arthroscopic hip surgery back in 2015, but the injury lingered. Backstrom said earlier in the year that the hip had been “grinding” down a bit, and he underwent excessive rehabilitation to return for the 2021-22 campaign. He skated in 47 regular-season games, dishing six goals and 31 assists before posting six points in six playoff games.
However, the injury started to flare up at the end of the year, and he noted that the hip wouldn’t be at 100 percent going forward. He also said there would be a lot of decisions he would have to make with regard to his future.
“The best thing I want to do is play hockey, and that’s my life,” Backstrom said in May. “Obviously, I want to be back. I want to be back to normal, not worrying about this. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
His future currently remains in flux, as there’s no timeline, and the surgery is one that is known to be career-ending for many athletes. So, what exactly was the procedure, and what does it mean for Backstrom?
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The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, which is the articulation of the pelvis with the femur. When the cartilage covering the hip ball-and-socket joint starts to wear down, the bones rub against each other. This leads to pain and can complicate movement.
So, hip resurfacing surgery works primarily to relieve pain and is an alternative to hip /replacement surgery, per the Hospital For Special Surgery. After the damaged bone and cartilage is removed, there’s a smooth metal cap placed on top of the trimmed thighbone, and a metal shell goes into the hip socket. This leads to pain relief and of course, helps the patient lead a normal life.
There have been some NHLers who have undergone this procedure and have seen different outcomes. Former VancRyan Kesler most notably underwent the surgery in May 2019 and also had surgery on his other hip in February 2020. He didn’t play another NHL game after that first surgery. However, Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who underwent that surgery in April 2013, returned to play in 2013-14, skating in 37 games before hanging up the skates.
Ultimately, everyone is different. There is nothing that will definitely say, at this time, whether or not Backstrom will be able to continue his career. For now, he will begin rehab, and time will tell where he goes from there.
The franchise center has three years left on his contract that carries an AAV of $9.2 million, and he has posted 264 goals and 747 assists through 1,058 games over 15 seasons. Backstrom won the Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018.