Thursday, September 12, 2002
With no back surgery, Straka's season is saved
CANONSBURG, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Martin Straka
finally got some good medical news, learning Thursday that he
probably won't need surgery to repair what was initially feared to
be a serious back injury.
An operation almost certainly would have ended Straka's season.
The NHL's fourth-leading scorer two years ago with 95 points, he
was limited to 13 games last season by a broken right leg, a broken
orbital bone and a damaged ankle.
"This is great news, real positive news,'' Straka said as the
Penguins reported to training camp. "Everybody's positive and
optimistic that everything's going to be OK and I won't need the
"That's the reason we didn't jump into surgery six weeks ago,''
general manager Craig Patrick said. "We were hoping for some
healing and there has been some healing, and Marty is feeling no
Straka's latest injury occurred during a weightlifting accident
in the Czech Republic on July 23, two days before he planned to
resume skating for the first time in four months.
As Straka was lifting a 300-pound barbell, the weightlifting
machine shifted, causing him to lose his grip and the weight to
slam into his back. He was hospitalized for several days, then
placed in a back brace that he wore for seven weeks until
When Straka found out Thursday morning that an MRI test showed
that the vertebra was healing and the attached ligament appeared to
be fine, he immediately resumed conditioning work. He hopes to
return to the ice in 2-to-3 weeks.
"I rode the bike for 25 minutes and I couldn't breathe,'' said
Straka, who turned 30 last week. "I was tired. But I was so happy
with the news, I couldn't wait.''
The Penguins' biggest problem might be keeping Straka from
rushing his recovery. He did little physically while in the back
brace, so he still needs weeks of conditioning work, weightlifting
and skating to get back into game shape.
Straka admittedly rushed his recovery last season from a
severely broken right leg sustained Oct. 29. Expected to miss the
rest of the regular season, he returned Feb. 27, only to break a
sinus bone during his second shift on the ice. He came back again
March 7, only to severely injure his right ankle.
"Our problem with Marty is slowing him down,'' Patrick said.
That's why, after learning of Straka's latest medical mishap,
teammate Alexei Kovalev called him in the hospital and told him,
"You should have stayed in the house all summer, with all the
crazy things going on around you.''
If Straka can return healthy and productive early in the season,
he would likely play alongside Kovalev on the Penguins' second
"The way things have gone for Marty so far, I don't want to
predict anything. But things are very positive right now,'' Patrick
said. "He looks good and things are healing the way they should be
healing. Hopefully, it stays that way.''