Michael Nylander will be able to play hockey again.
That's the prognosis of doctors at the University of Rochester's Department of Orthopedics after completing neck surgery on the 38-year-old centre. He is scheduled to be released from Strong Memorial Hospital today.
Nylander, a centre for the Rochester Americans of the AHL, was checked from behind by Brandon Smith in Saturday's game against the Grand Rapids Griffins. His upper body and head impacted the boards.
Nylander suffered two fractured vertebrae on the play. Spinal specialist Dr. Robert Molinari repaired the fractures, fusing together the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae in Nylander's neck. The C-1 vertebrae is the highest toward the head.
“Thankfully this happened without neurologic deficit, he didn't lose feeling,” Dr. Robert Bronstein, the Amerks' team physician, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “A cervical spine injury can be catastrophic. This is why we clamor at the youth hockey levels right up to the pro levels that you can't hit from behind.
“The higher the level is, the worse it becomes because more nerves can be involved,” Bronstein added. “If everything goes as expected, he (Molinari) feels he would be able to go back and play.”
Nylander is expected to resume his playing career in six months.