May 29, 2024
Brody Malone shares his recovery timeline after needing three procedures to repair a gruesome leg injury.

SAN JOSE — Brody Malone couldn’t stop fidgeting. His kept bouncing his knees, tugging his T-shirt and readjusting his hat as he sat on the edge of his seat Thursday night for Day 1 of the men’s U.S. Gymnastic Championships.

“I’m never like this,” the reigning two-time U.S. all-around champ insisted. “I’m so nervous, I don’t know why I get like this when I’m not competing. My heart is beating 100 miles per hour.”

Malone was surrounded by friends and Stanford teammates as he cheered on the competing gymnasts, including 11 fellow Stanford athletes. Rising sophomore Asher Hong led after the opening night, posting a total of 85.615 points, which put him slightly ahead of 2020 Olympian Yul Moldauer.

Throughout the night, Malone was seen clapping and yelling for every hit handstand, every save and stuck landing. Between routines, he checked scores on a phone.

“It’s definitely weird,” Malone said. “I definitely wish I was out there.”

Malone, 23, will have to wait at least six more months before that can happen as he continues to recover from a gruesome leg injury that required three surgeries. Even still, the 2020 Olympian remains optimistic he’ll be ready next spring to contend for a spot on Team USA for the 2024 Paris Games.

“I don’t want to quit,” Malone said. “This is just an obstacle in the way that I’ve got to overcome. Making the Olympics is not an easy task but throwing this in there just makes it a little harder.”

Malone injured his right leg in March when his left hand slipped off the high bar as he prepared to swing into his dismount during DTB Pokal event finals in Germany. As he flung into the air, Malone thought he could still stick the landing to potentially edge out rival Japanese star Daiki Hashimoto. Malone instead landed awkwardly on his right leg and fell backward.

Scans at the hospital later revealed he dislocated his leg where the femur and tibia bones meet and chipped the top of his lower leg bone.

Doctors in Germany placed an external fixator on his leg to help stabilize it for the long journey home. Once back in California, the Stanford star had his second surgery to repair the break and fix his torn meniscus and damaged cartilage.

He underwent a third procedure July 14 to repair his lateral collateral ligament.

Malone is already starting to get back into the swing of things — quite literally. He shared videos on social media last weekend of himself swinging giants around the high bar as well as swing elements and holds on rings while wearing a black brace on his injured leg.

“I’m really glad that I was able to start doing a little more stuff,” said Malone, who helped Stanford win four straight NCAA titles over his time with the Cardinal. “It felt really good.”

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But those moves are about the extent of what he can do now. His return-to-sport protocols have him targeting December to begin working on landings.

“If everything goes well, I should be able to go back to the Winter Cup [in February] next year,” Malone said.

Malone’s return would certainly bolster the U.S., which needs to finish in the top 12 at the upcoming world championships to qualify a full team for next year’s Olympics. Malone won the high bar title and finished fourth in the all-around at last year’s worlds. He also was the only U.S. gymnast to compete on all six apparatuses in the team final and helped Team USA to a fifth-place finish.

For now, Malone is trying to remain patient with the process.

“It’s really hard but … [you] can’t get ahead of yourself with things like this,” he said. “If you push too hard, too fast, you could end up hurting yourself again and just ruining your chances. I don’t have the timeline to be able to do that.”