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Ranger's Rehab Going Well

by Erin Chenderlin / Tampa Bay Lightning

Paul Ranger sits on a table in the Lightning training room, his back leaning against the wall. His knees are up, providing a surface to help him fill out his crossword puzzle. He has to get the paper in just the right spot, so his right hand can reach to fill in the boxes.

His right arm rests against his body, and his shoulder is hooked up to an electrical muscle stimulation machine, which contracts the muscle and helps control pain and inflammation. It's also covered in ice packs and wrapped in an ace bandage. His shoulder bounces with each pulse of the electric stimulation, making it difficult to write. The whole process has become routine for the 23-year-old Lightning defenseman who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum April 22.

Assistant athletic trainer Jason Serbus has been working with Ranger almost every day since the surgery. Serbus sat in with Dr. Andrews and his team as they performed the surgery and was able to watch the procedure. He said the surgery involved placing anchors in the shoulder to repair the torn labrum.

"The labrum is like the bumper, the suction cup between the ball and the socket of the shoulder," Serbus said. "It's important in providing stability and a little bit of cushion. They were very pleased how things went."

Serbus said it was beneficial to watch the procedure because, as a therapist, it gives him a good idea what was done and where he needs to start the rehabilitation process.

Ranger comes in for treatment with the Lightning training staff six days a week. Almost every day, Serbus goes through a variety of exercises with him to work on range of motion and regaining strength in his shoulder. Ranger said the rehab is definitely helping, and the pain is starting to get better.

"The first two weeks were pretty agonizing, but you've got to suck it up," he said. "The rehab helps. Up to four weeks, the pain was always there, and now it's more of a really solid aching, unless you bump it on the barbecue or something stupid like that," he said, and laughed. "I've done that a couple of times."

After surgery, Ranger was in a brace full time for about four weeks, then kept it on while he slept during the fifth week. He's now started to sleep without it, which he said has helped him get a better night's rest.

"It's a little more comfortable," he said. "You don't have your shoulder and your arm all tightened up against you and strapped in, so that definitely helped. I've had a few nights of solid sleep the last couple days."

Along with his sleeping habits, Ranger said many aspects of his everyday life have been affected. Driving, cooking, writing and even getting dressed have all proven much more difficult than he expected.

"You've got to think most of the time you only have one arm, right? So it's like everything's double time," he said. "You're using your left arm for everything. By the end of the summer, I wouldn't be surprised if I was ambidextrous," he said, and laughed.

The best part about Ranger's rehab experience, or worst depending on your view, is that he's not alone in his recovery. Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier had virtually the same procedure done a week before Ranger, and the two have been rehabbing together almost every day. They keep each other company, joke with one another, talk about the upcoming season and seemed to have bonded through this experience.

"I'm kind of ticked that he's a week ahead of me already," Ranger said, joking. "No, it's definitely good to have somebody else in here. I think it's brought us closer together. We're always going to have this where we can joke around about it together, and I'm sure we'll have some fun over the next couple years reminding ourselves about this."

Lecavalier agreed about enjoying the company, though wished it didn't have to be under these circumstances.

"Obviously you don't wish this on anybody, but it's good to have somebody in the same boat," he said. "We had the same surgery, so we kind of know what the other's going through, you know? It's been going well."

Serbus said the surgeries weren't exactly the same, because the tears within the labrums of each player were a bit different.

"We're talking about the same, general, anatomical part of the shoulder, but Paul's repair was a little more extensive," he said. Because of nature of both the injury and the repair, the training staff has been cautious not to try and do too much too quickly with Ranger.

"His therapy has been a little slower start by design," Serbus said.

The most important part of rehab and therapy, Serbus said, is to first and foremost protect the repair that was done, so everything can heal properly. Once the area is safely protected, the focus turns to regaining strength and range of motion as soon as possible.

"The doctor did a lot of work to put things back where they need to be, so you need to protect that," Serbus said. "Within those limits of protection, you need to get range of motion and strength back. Those are the two big things. You need to do that at a controlled pace to make sure you're not overstressing the repair."

Ranger said that, overall, the therapy has been going well. He said there are definitely both good and bad days, but the bad days are becoming few and far between, and he's optimistic about the progress he feels he makes every day.

"Most of them in here have been pretty good days," he said. "We have a great training staff in here and they're very detailed in what we're doing."

Ranger went on, saying that while he knows he is in good hands with the Lightning trainers, he and Lecavalier don't necessarily make their jobs easy.

"We challenge them every day as far as medical questions," he said. "I know myself and Vinny, we're interested. Not only is it our own bodies that we had surgery on and we're learning about what we're repairing and what we're working on, but it's just interesting."

While the whole experience has been tough, Ranger said one of the hardest pills to swallow was missing his summer break. With vacations and trips planned to spend time back home in Ontario, having to stay in Tampa for rehab can get frustrating.

"I'm certainly not doing everything that I'd normally be doing this time of year," he said. "I'd love to be out fishing or golfing, or when I’m at home, playing guitar, but obviously that's not really an option right now.

"Those plans can't happen, but there are many summers to come," he said. "It's just better to get this done now."

More than vacations or summer breaks, Ranger said he's looking forward to simply getting healthy and being ready for next season. He knows it's going to be a tough summer, but he's more than willing to put in the work.

"Once this rehab starts getting up to the later stages, then training will start and I can really start getting back into hockey," he said.


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