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David Chao, MD: Timing Of Michael Thomas’ Surgery Makes No Sense

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Why did Michael Thomas and the Saints delay ankle surgery until June? When things don’t make sense from the outside, that usually just means we don’t have all the information yet.

Teams, players and medical staff are not stupid. They sometimes make decisions that don’t work out, but no one intends to make a poor choice.

Right now, the delay of ankle surgery seems to be a bad one. The Saints star wide receiver suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 last season and missed six games. Thomas later reinjured the same ankle, was placed on IR and then missed the last three regular season games. He returned to defeat the Bears in the Wild Card round before being held catch-less in the Saints Divisional round loss to the Buccaneers.

It was widely reported that he was likely to need surgery to his deltoid ligament and high ankle. There were no reports of surgery until now.

Unfortunately, with the report of ligament repair, this will knock Thomas out for a major portion of the season. Expect him to start the season on Reserve/PUP, meaning a minimum six-week absence. It would be good news if he could return to form by midseason. It would not surprise me if he missed a majority of games and might not return to 100% until late.

Before everyone jumps on Thomas or his doctors, let’s get the whole story. Perhaps the thinking was that the ankle would heal with more rest, but that just never happened. Thomas was said to be rehabbing during mini-camp.

In my time as a head team physician, we often tried to let injuries heal in the offseason. However, I would set a timeline. For example, I would let a player who might need an ankle scope go until June, as the recovery would be anticipated to be 4-6 weeks. For an ankle ligament repair surgery, I would have set that timeline much earlier, in March, due to the potential 4-6 month recovery.

If the team doctors did anything wrong (NB: I have not come to that conclusion), the Saints won’t be shy about it. Head coach Sean Peyton has publicly fired his orthopedic doctors over less.

In the end, we will ultimately find out what happened. Right now, just know the Saints — already without Drew Brees — have taken another major blow.

Written by Pro Football Doc

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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