Only with the Mets does a medical exam result in more questions than answers. That happened again Wednesday with Ike Davis, who learned that he will be sidelined for another three weeks and may need season-ending microfracture surgery for his injured left ankle.
Initially, Davis was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and bone bruise when he was placed on the disabled list May 11. But his condition has degenerated since then, and Davis believes it was made worse by wearing a protective boot that may have restricted circulation in that area.
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"I wore the boot for so long that my joint was compressed the whole time," Davis said, "and there wasn't a lot of movement in there to help out with the inflammation."
Davis had been ordered to wear the boot for three weeks leading up to this latest MRI, which revealed more extensive cartilage damage than previous tests.
"The cartilage didn't really heal as fast as we thought it was going to heal," Davis said. "Hopefully in the next three weeks it heals a little faster. With the MRI, there was a lot of irritation around [the area] and it could be that it's healing. So that's why it's either going to get better in three weeks or it's not going to get better."
By then, Davis should have a more concrete plan on how to proceed. If he is finally cleared at that point for baseball activity, it's likely that he would need another two weeks for a minor-league rehab stint, and without any setbacks, could return to the Mets around Aug. 1.
That's the best-case scenario. The alternative is microfracture surgery, a procedure that involves poking tiny holes in the bone to create blood flow in the area. Carlos Beltran considered the microfracture option a year ago for the bone bruise in his right knee but opted for a less invasive procedure.
For Davis, that would end his season, and then require a three-month rehab process to get him ready for Opening Day 2012. While general manager Sandy Alderson suggested that as a possibility, he called such talk "very premature" after Wednesday's exam.
"Surgery is like an athlete's nightmare," Davis said. "If it's going to get me on the field again then it's something we have to do. But obviously we're going to get a second opinion and see if everything coincides with everything everyone says. Hopefully in three weeks I'm starting to run again."
Davis suffered the injury May 10 at Coors Field in what appeared to be a rather harmless collision with David Wright in front of the pitcher's mound. In actuality, the freakish nature of the collision caused more damage than expected.
"When I was spraining my ankle, David's knee hit my shin and forced it a little downward and dented the bone," Davis said. "It's not a normal area to have it dented -- especially ankles. There's not a lot of blood in the ankle joint, so it's hard to heal."
Davis flew back to New York the next morning and was placed on the DL, but the severity was not known until he tried to resume baseball activity in Port St. Lucie. He still felt pain, and after being examined again May 31 in New York, Davis was put in a boot for three weeks.
"It's conceivable that wearing the boot inhibited circulation in the ankle as opposed to walking," Alderson said. "But then there's always the question of whether it should be fully weight-bearing or not, and we leave that to the doctors."
Davis believed that the boot worked against him, and he was happy to ditch it after this latest exam. "I think it could help a lot," Davis said.
Now his days will be filled with ultrasound treatments and dips in the hydrotherapy pool in the hope that he can run by the end of this three-week period and avoid surgery.
"I don't think it's a question of can he play and tolerate the pain," Alderson said. "Although when you reach a point at which he can no longer do additional damage, then it's a matter of tolerating the pain. But right now, the damage remains significant enough that he can't tolerate the activity."