LAS CRUCES — Torn ligaments, specifically, torn thumb ulnar collateral ligments, can take an athlete out of commission anywhere from eight to 12 weeks.
This according to an unnamed orthopedic surgeon who is knowledgable of such a procedure, as well as any search on the internet for sites such as orthoinfo.aaos.org.
New Mexico State junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb the week of Dec. 3, 2012. The unnamed surgeon said an athlete could miss between eight and 12 weeks before returning to action, but athletes who are generally young and able to rehab more frequently than an average person, tend to return closer toward the eight week mark than the 12-week mark. If such estimates are accurate, Nephawe could return to the lineup as soon as the first week of February (roughtly the second half of Western Athletic Conference play) or by the first week of March, just prior to the conference tournament.
Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said on Tuesday that the Aggies haven't determined if Nephawe will return this season or seek a medical redshirt.
“He has started rehab and we are just playing it by year,” Menzies said. “We have had conversations as to when it would be too late, when you still are considering coming back this year. It's too early to make an assessment based on rehabilitation.”
Nephawe started the first nine games for the Aggies, last appearing on Dec. 4, 2012 against South Alabama. By rule, Nephawe can play 10 games before losing the option for a medical redshirt or hardship waiver. The NCAA will grant a medical redshirt if a player suffers a major injury in the first half of the season and if that player has played in 10 percent or less of his team's games - Nephawe meets both criteria.
Treatment for an injury like Nephawe's normally consists of a hard cast ininitally, replaced by a plastic removable cast that limits movement but allows for early therapy four to six weeks after surgery.
The thumb is key for athletes since it is used in gripping a ball. Once an athlete can grasp things, rehab normally speeds up.