Four Starting Pitchers Go Down to Elbow Injuries in One Week
Personally I think that it HAS to be some kind of disease that is spreading across the country. I’m serious. Well, not exactly about the “disease” aspect but something is going on around Major League Baseball. In recent years more and more players, especially pitchers have been getting injured, having Tommy John surgery and spending over a year just trying to recover to be able to pitch. When is the barrage of injuries in MLB going to stop?
Many ideas have been tried – everything from lowering pitch counts to the new rule regarding home plate collisions to special helmets for pitchers – yet the number of serious injuries continues to grow. Is it the way that teams are handling the players rehab? Not necessarily as both the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg and Atlanta Braves’ Kris Medlen had the surgery in 2012 and their rehabs were handled differently. Yet still both pitchers ended up injured again. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal explains what happened in his column Sunday,
Medlen began that season in the bullpen and pitched into the postseason. Strasburg started in the rotation, then was shut down after a prescribed number of innings.
Which team was right? Which team was wrong? Who knows?
Strasburg worked a career-high 183 innings last season, but underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in October. Medlen worked a career-high 197 innings, and blew out again this spring.
Medlen, 28, once again led the charge into this series of injuries. A week ago Medlen was forced to leave his start early and it was later revealed that he will once again require the surgery which is much harder, both mentally and physically, on the players the second time around. Just two days later another Atlanta pitcher went down. Brandon Beachy, 27, is now facing his second Tommy John procedure, his first being in 2011. A few days later the Oakland Athletics announced that they would be starting the regular season without two of their starters, Jarrod Parker, 25 and A.J. Griffin, 26. Griffin’s elbow injury was revealed to just need three weeks of rehabilitation and not surgery but it is STILL a fifth pitcher down in the week. Parker still has yet to see Tommy John specialist Dr.James Andrews but the prognosis is that he too will be facing his second Tommy John procedure since 2009. Then today it was reported by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ace Patrick Corbin‘s MRI showed ligament damage in the elbow. The 24-year old southpaw is seeking a second opinion but we all know now what ligament damage means; probable surgery.
With all the precautions already in place and the major advancements in sports medicine, just what is happening? Nobody seems to really know. At Thursday’s SABR Analytic Conference in Phoenix Los Angeles Dodger’s trainer Stan Conte said,
“Injuries in baseball are going up. They are not going down and they are not staying level. The last two years have been the highest amount of lost time in Major League Baseball ever.”
According to Rosenthal there can only be one explanation,
“Throwing the baseball is an unnatural act.”
Unfortunately that is something that cannot be changed. Still in my mind the question that remains unanswered is “why now?” With all of the precautions to protect the players these days, why is the number of injuries still rising at such an alarming rate? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, pitchers in years past retired early than pitchers today, many because of the injuries caused over use and structural damage to their elbows or shoulders. Yet if those types of issues have supposedly been corrected with new rules, policies and advances in sports medicine, what is going on? I certainly can’t figure it out and five pitchers injured in seven days is just absolutely baffling! I’ve probably left you with as many questions as you had at the moment you began reading but all these Tommy John cases need to be addressed now and drawing more attention to it cannot hurt. This is probably the most serious and relatively un-addressed issue in the sport right now.