Nationals golden boy Bryce Harper had all of baseball holding their breath on Saturday night when he slipped on a wet first base and crumbled to the ground. Replays of the incident showed that he hyperextended his leg, injuring his knee. Considering he was unable to put any weight on his left leg as he was helped off the field, everyone was thinking the worst.
The extent of the damage caused by a hyperextended knee can range from a bone bruise to severe ligament damage (typically the ACL or PCL.) Luckily, Harper was able to walk away without any ligament damage. An MRI confirmed that he suffered only a severe bone bruise, which means there is a chance he could return in time to help the Nationals in a playoff run. If he had suffered an ACL tear, Harper would have had to kiss any chance of a World Series appearance goodbye. But while he likely is looking at a longer recovery time than the “10 days to two weeks,” suggested by manager Dusty Baker, the All-Star outfielder could definitely recover by the start of the playoffs in October. Our algorithm is calculating a four-week Optimal Recovery Time for Harper, which would have him rejoining the team in late September.
There is absolutely no reason for the Nationals to put Harper on the field before he’s completely healed, and Harper himself has also said that he will not play through the injury … unless it’s the playoffs.
“If I don’t feel good, then I’m not going to go out there and play,” Harper said. “Of course, if we were in the playoffs right now, I’d tape it up and get out there and hobble the best I could and do that.”
According to the Inside Injuries algorithm, Harper was already at a High Injury Risk before he sustained the knee injury. While the slippery bases are mostly to blame, Harper’s recent injury history certainly didn’t help. He dealt with a groin injury earlier in the season and missed 15 games last year with various injuries (neck, wrist, elbow and knee), though he never landed on the DL.
If a player attempts to play through a severe bone bruise, they risk the possibility of creating a stress fracture, but we doubt the Nationals would risk the health of their No. 1 guy. As long as Harper is completely healed before he gets back on the field, he shouldn’t face too many lingering symptoms.