A week ago, Notre Dame preseason All-American and ACC player of the year Bonzie Colson was diagnosed with a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot. He had injured the foot the Friday before, yet registered a fairly typical — for him — 22 points and 17 rebounds a day later during a 68-59 win over Georgia Tech.
However, when the initial pain worsened over the course of the next few days, an x-ray ensued and the news could not have been much worse.
Surely, the high Irish hopes for a deep run in the NCAA tournament were dashed.
If a glimmer remained, it was surely snuffed out when second leading scorer Matt Farrell sprained his left ankle with five minutes remaining in the first half of Wednesday’s game with North Carolina State.
Still, even without a star on the floor, Notre Dame just kept stretching its lead, ultimately winning 88-58. The 30-point margin was the largest ever for the Irish in an ACC contest.
Not so surprising since N.C. State was surely a bottom-of-the-pack ACC squad. Weren’t they picked to finish 12th out of 15 in the ACC preseason poll?
Don’t ask Duke, which was the ACC favorite as the season started and was ranked second in the nation on Saturday, when it made the short trip from Durham to Raleigh. The Blue Devils ended up wishing they had stayed home, falling to the Wolfpack 96-85.
Moments before that game started, the Irish — still minus Farrell and Colson — finished, coming back from a nine-point halftime deficit when Rex Pflueger sank a put-back of a miss by T.J. Gibbs with 2.6 seconds remaining. The final at the Carrier Dome was Notre Dame 51, Syracuse 49.
Next up for the Irish is an encore with Georgia Tech, but this time in Atlanta. Coach Mike Brey is hoping Farrell will be available.
Not a chance for Colson, who had surgery on Thursday to repair the fracture with hardware. Notre Dame’s pre-op press release claimed, “Colson is expected to miss eight weeks of game action.” That would get the power forward back just in time for the ACC tournament.
By pure coincidence, the current issue of the medical journal, Sports Health, arrived in my mailbox on Saturday and it included a study that addressed the likelihood of such a relatively quick recovery.
Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine looked at the outcomes of foot surgery on 77 professional athletes, 51 from the NBA, who were injured between 1986 and 2016. In terms of long-term effects on a career, the news for Colson is good. All but one returned and of those, all resumed playing at pre-injury levels and for as long as would have been expected had they not been injured.
Nonetheless, average return-to-play time was 137 days, nearly 20 weeks, nowhere near eight.
Worse, the six injuries that recurred and required a second surgery were all among NBA players. The researchers blamed those re-injuries on rapid returns and the nature of the sport when compared to the MLB, NFL and NHL athletes also studied.
Most ominously, those who required re-operation needed an average of 275 days to come back.
Brey says he will take no chances with Colson’s professional future. Combining that proper sentiment with this research means the Irish star is likely done for the season.