Delicate Knee Surgery Saved Matsui's Season

The New York Times—November 4, 2009

When the Yankees fashion their diamond-crusted rings to commemorate their 2009 championship, they might consider making one for Dr. Scott Rodeo of Hospital for Special Surgery. Without his delicate surgical work, Hideki Matsui might not have been able to earn the World Series Most Valuable Player award.

Rodeo operated on Matsui’s arthritic knees a year ago. With careful supervision by the trainer Gene Monahan, he monitored Matsui’s progress throughout the season, helping him to be at optimal health for the postseason.

Now a free agent, Matsui is scheduled to see Rodeo again soon. A magnetic resonance imaging test will probably determine whether Matsui needs to have the procedure repeated. Either way, Rodeo said, Matsui could play some outfield next year.

“I think that he will probably be able to do it up to a point,” Rodeo said. “If he plays four or five games a week out there, it might start to bother him. There’s probably some level he can establish where he can play two or three days a week, but not four or five. My sense is that if you put him out there every single day, he might get into trouble.”

Matsui, 35, has said he wants to play some outfield next year, but Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said last week that he would bring him back only as a designated hitter. Matsui may have to decide which is more important to him - playing the outfield a few days a week, or playing for the Yankees.

Matsui has lesions around the knobs at the base of the femur, which forms part of the knee joint, and loss of cartilage. Small pieces of cartilage flake off, and they cause swelling and pain when they catch in the joint.

Rodeo performed arthroscopic surgery to clean out the loose bodies and smooth the surfaces of the bones to prevent cartilage loss. Over time, as pieces gradually peel off, the procedure can be repeated.

After surgery, Matsui must continue to exercise to strengthen the muscles around the knee, which significantly reduces the likelihood of complications. He may eventually consider more extensive microfracture surgery, but only after he retires. To do it now would most likely cost him an entire season.

Rodeo, who is also a team physician for the N.F.L.’s Giants, said that Matsui deserved much of the credit for remaining healthy all season because of his rigorous conditioning and maintenance work.

“The Yankees took him out of the outfield and that helped him,” Rodeo said. “They had good rehab. They have a tremendous training staff with Gene Monahan. He’s a very experienced, smart guy and he’s obviously taken very good care of him as far as managing the player and the injury.”

The next step is for Rodeo to determine how much arthritis has returned to Matsui’s knees, and whether another procedure would be helpful.

“It is something that can be repeated to clean things out and kind of buy time, to quiet things down,” he said. “And ultimately there is some degree of unpredictability as far as how much it does and how long it lasts.”

It certainly worked last year.

Matsui hit 28 home runs and had 90 runs batted in during the regular season. In 13 World Series at-bats, he had eight hits, including three home runs and eight R.B.I., with six in Game 6.

“That was great to see,” Rodeo said. “He’s such a good guy, very polite and respectful. It’s easy to root for a guy like that, especially the way he plays. It’s a tribute to him and the whole team and the way they took care of him.”

Read the full story at nytimes.com.

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