Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs have announced that goalie prospect Ian Scott has undergone hip surgery.

The Toronto Marlies announced today that goaltender Ian Scott has undergone successful hip surgery to correct ongoing issues related to impingement. He is expected to miss a minimum of six months but the team anticipates Scott to be ready for training camp in 2020.

Scott has not played this season at all and last appeared on a roster in training camp, but did play in any games. He was never moved off the Marlies roster to an expected appearance on the Newfoundland Growlers due to an announced injury that was never clarified until now.

What is Impingement?

In a hip joint, which is a ball and socket joint, Femoroacetabular impingement occurs when either the head of the leg bone that makes up the ball or the cup-shaped socket on the pelvis don’t mesh correctly. There are several different forms and theorized causes of the condition, particularly as they relate to hockey goalies.

It has been understood for some time that the condition is more common in hockey players in general, and the relationship between congenital abnormalities and the the effects of playing and practising certain hockey moves have been studied in recent decades.

FAI, as it is known, is a thing that scares goalies when they hear it. For many, there is fear that the condition can end a career, but that’s not what the research shows.

One study published this summer examined the careers of 77 NHL players who had had surgery for FAI. That study found a very high rate of return to the sport, over 90%, and found no correlation with performance changes.

There were 16 goalies included in the study, and their timeline to return had a average of 7.8 months, plus or minus 4.4 months. That makes the Leafs statement that Scott should be ready for next year’s training camp sound reasonable.

There is a lot of differing results in studies on the post-operative career length of players:

The average post-operative career length for players undergoing hip arthroscopy for FAI in the present study was 3.3 years. This is similar to previous studies with reported post-operative career lengths ranging from 2.1 to 3 years following hip arthroscopy [13, 14, 18, 19]. However, the control group in the present study had significantly longer careers compared with matched players undergoing surgery. Only the study by McDonald et al. compared players undergoing surgery to matched controls and found no significant difference in career lengths between groups [13]. This study included American Hockey League (AHL) players in addition to NHL players. The AHL allows players an additional league to prolong their professional careers and likely contributes to the similar career lengths in both groups compared with the present study.

There is disagreement about the post-operative performance outcome as well, since some studies haven’t controlled for ordinary age-related decline. More skaters than goalies undergo this surgery, and some research has focused on the various motions that make the problem worse.

Scott’s prognosis

By having access to NHL-level medical care and ongoing therapy, Scott has the best chance at an outcome like the NHL players studied.  At this point, his career is interrupted, not lost.

Scott was signed by the Maple Leafs to an ELC that took effect for the 2018/2019 season. He was young enough for that contract to slide in that first year, but he is now too old, so this long-term injury does not affect his contract status. His ELC will expire in the summer of 2022. The lost season will likely delay the point at which he is eligible for arbitration, however.