SOUTH BEND — The Notre Dame Orthopaedic Society and Notre Dame’s 1977 National Championship team gathered at the school over the weekend. It was only appropriate, then, that for a few minutes, their gatherings intersected.

On Friday, as lunch for the orthopaedic surgeons was ending, 1977 team members Dr. Bob Burger, Kevin Hart and Dr. Ken MacAfee were introduced to the crowd and the trio offered reminiscences of 40 years ago.

Hart, who backed up MacAfee and whose father won the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame in 1949, focused on the Purdue game in which Irish starting quarterback Rusty Lisch took a hard hit and was replaced by Gary Forystek. Enter Boilermakers linebacker Fred Arrington who delivered as hard a tackle as I have ever witnessed, that — quite literally — almost took Forystek’s head off. He did not get up and an ambulance was brought on the field.

Lisch returned but was ineffective in the third quarter, and with Irish behind 24-14, was replaced at the start of the fourth by Joe Montana. The future Hall-of-Famer would lead the Irish to 17 unanswered points. And the rest — of the season and Montana’s career — is history.

Had Forystek not been so badly injured, though, who knows how that game, the 1977 season, and Montana’s career would have turned out.

Earlier in the morning, the surgeons had heard about the latest techniques for cartilage restoration in the knee that are intended to prevent arthritis.

Given the nature of the ankle injury suffered by Boston Celtics recent acquisition Gordon Hayward last week, I approached Michael Knesek, MD, between lectures and asked if such techniques were as effective in the ankle. Knesek, who works with Bone and Joint Specialists in Merrillville and Munster and Community Care Network in Valparaiso & Portage, explained they were but hoped none would be necessary for Hayward.

If there is cartilage damage, however, and it is reparable, the recovery is long and not guaranteed.

When former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire suffered an ankle fracture/dislocation against Virginia early in 2015, he was out the remainder of that season. DeShone Kizer came off the bench, lead the Irish to a last-minute victory, and ultimately helped steer the team to a 10-win season.

Then when Zaire attempted a comeback in 2016, it was clear he was nowhere near as fast as he had been and thus was unable to dislodge Kizer.

I suspect the culprit was cartilage damage, which triggers arthritis that causes pain, weakness and decreased mobility.

In 2017, with a year of eligibility remaining, Zaire would have seemed a natural to replace Kizer, who declared for the draft and went in the second round to the Cleveland Browns.

Apparently, not as natural a replacement as speedy Brandon Wimbush. Obviously knowing then what we have all know now about Wimbush, Zaire opted instead to graduate and transfer to Florida.

Other than mopping up at the end of the season opener, Zaire has not appeared for the struggling Gators (3-3), who have had mediocre play, at best, from two other signal callers.

Consequently, the media and fans in Gainesville are calling for Zaire to get a real chance. But has he already in practice and simply shown the coaches that his speed is still not up to par?

If not for that broken ankle, where would he be now and ditto for Kizer?

Meanwhile, is there a relatively unknown rookie in Boston about to emerge given the chance to replace former Butler star Hayward?

John Doherty is a licensed physical therapist and athletic trainer. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.