Jan 3, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT
At 37, Ed Jovanovski is attempting an unprecedented comeback.
Jovanovski, sidelined since March after undergoing major hip surgery, has been cleared to play on Saturday when the Panthers host the Predators in Florida.
In doing so, the Panthers captain could become a pioneer.
Jovanovski is trying to come back from hip resurfacing, a procedure consisting of placing a metal cap over the femur and a matching metal cup in the pelvic socket. It’s less invasive than a complete hip replacement (because more of the femur is left intact), but still a significant procedure.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, returning from said procedure is uncharted territory:
It’s believed that no athlete from any of the four major professional sports has ever come back successfully after this relatively new procedure.
Former Lightning center Tim Taylor underwent hip resurfacing at 37 after the 2007 season and never played another NHL game. Bo Jackson, an NFL and MLB star, had a hip replacement in 1991 and was forced to retire at 29.
“I don’t think it’s ever happened,” said Dr. Audie Rolnick, a Plantation hip replacement surgeon, who doesn’t do resurfacing.
“Hockey of all sports, has a huge amount of stress on the joint and the hips, so I think it’s going to be pretty rough for him at 37 to come back. His skating will be fine, but it’s the crashing into the boards and other players crashing into him. The crashes will loosen up the prosthesis and cause pain.
“I would never let anyone go back to playing a sport like this.”
(Here’s a piece on Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis trying to come back from the same procedure.)
Panthers GM Dale Tallon praised Jovanovski’s dedication and hard work to getting back on the ice, especially since Jovanovski’s career appeared to be in jeopardy after missing 83 of Florida’s last 89 games.
“[Jovanovski] worked extremely hard during his extensive rehabilitation process,” Tallon said. “[He] should be commended for his diligent efforts both on and off the ice.”
Florida’s coach, Peter Horachek, is unsure how Jovanovski’s comeback will pan out.
“The way he practices he looks ready,” Horachek explained. “You’re kind of working on [uncharted] ground that hasn’t been worked on before with this surgery.”
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