Nine common injuries and their prognoses

by on April 1, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT


Back Injuries: Even the experts have trouble deciphering the true nature and extent of back injuries, which is one of the major injuries you shouldn't touch. If you even hear of a player with bulging discs or pinched nerves, stay away because they can often deteriorate to the point where they need surgery or a large amount of rest. And if a player with a history of back injuries begins having hamstring problems, the hammy may be an indication that his back is weak or starting to bother him. Be cautious when it comes to back spasms, pulls or strains, even though they are not as severe.

Achilles' tendon: A serious injury. Any kind of tear of this tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel requires surgery, is almost always season-ending, and often affects a player's running ability after surgery.

Shoulder Injuries: On the list of the less serious calamities is one that was previously career-ending: a rotator cuff injury. Now, sports medicine has advanced to the point where a tear to this shoulder muscle is most often 'just' season-ending.

There are other kinds of rotator cuff injuries, including a sprain, which is usually caused by overuse, poor mechanics, or weak shoulder muscles. This latter condition is often treated by a combination of rest and medication, and if that doesn't help, then arthroscopic surgery.

Just below the rotator cuff in terms of seriousness is a torn labrum, which usually requires arthroscopic surgery. The labrum is part of the muscle group in the back of the shoulder, and if the tear is not complete, most players are usually able to return within two months. A strained labrum, meanwhile, usually requires 6 to 8 weeks of rest, rehab and medication.

Elbow Injuries: The pitching arm injury that gets a red flag is an elbow problem where there are possible bone chips, bone spurs or calcium deposits in the elbow joint. Bone chips are the most serious, but a pitcher who is afflicted with any one of these problems might pitch a good game, then not be able to get loose for his next start and get hammered. Caveat emptor.

Knee injuries: A torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is the worst, not only because it's season-ending, but it is usually accompanied by a slight loss of quickness and speed when the player finally comes back. Just call it the rotator cuff injury of base-running. On rare occasions, professional athletes can perform with a strained, weakened or even partially torn ACL.

Another knee injury is torn cartilage, either on the inside part of the knee, or the outside. This injury can be corrected, however, and the player usually can return 3-6 weeks after surgery.

Ankles: Next to all of the previous afflictions, ankle sprains might seem relatively minor. But if your player has one, you can count on a return after 1 to 3 months of rehab.

Hamstrings: If not related to a back injury, a sprained hammy can keep a player out of action from a few days to up to three months. The cause of this injury is either poor conditioning, poor stretching techniques or muscle weakness in the leg (the front muscles of the leg have to be proportionately strong in comparison to the muscles in the back of the leg).

Shin Splints: A shin splint is the tearing of the muscle/membrane between the two major bones in the lower leg. Complicating matters is that the injury takes a bit longer to heal than most might expect because of the poor blood supply to that area of the body. A player with shin splints may need up to a full six months to fully recover, so plan accordingly.

Foot Injuries: The muscle tissue in the arch of the foot is called the plantar muscle, and this injury is another slow healer that usually affects a player for up to six months.

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