by James Bicos, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist; voted Top 10 Sports Medicine Surgeons by Sports Illustrated for cartilage issues
The Major League Baseball regular season is over (go Tigers!) with teams playing a total of 2,432 games since April. That’s a lot of throwing, batting, running and sliding, as the MLB disabled lists can attest. The New York Times has kept a running calculation of which players are currently on each team’s disabled list and how much those players are costing their teams while recovering from injury. The cost of being injured, though a little more expensive than for you and me, isn’t that much different for the average person.
If you are a weekend warrior and you injure yourself, there’s the potential that you’ll miss work, be unable to perform everyday tasks or function normally. That means lost wages and a lower quality of life. That’s why prevention and treatment of common athletic injuries are crucial components in keeping you off the bench—and off the disabled list.
Low Back Pain: Matt Holliday (St. Louis Cardinals)
Those who’ve suffered with low back pain know how it can affect everything from work, sleep and even sitting at the dinner table enjoying a meal with the family. Low back pain is usually caused by overuse and ligament strain and the good news is that it usually gets better on its own after a few days or weeks. St. Louis Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday was forced to take three games off for a bad back with his team fighting to make the playoffs in September. “I just think it tightens up every once in a while,” Cardinals Manager Matheny told MLB.com. “I think people with bad backs understand it just happens. It comes and goes.” Holliday already missed 10 games in July with a hamstring injury (more on this soon), costing his team roughly $1.1 million while he recuperated.
Treatment and prevention advice: Severe cases of low back pain require a trip to your doctor, but for nagging pain, rest and proper treatment helps the recovery process. Once the pain is gone, exercising your core is the best way to keep low back pain at bay. Working glutes, hamstrings and the abdominals will help stabilize the body and spinal mobility exercises will help keep your back healthy for activity.
Plantar Fascitis: Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels)
Even MLB superstars aren’t immune to plantar fasciitis, caused by repeated stress on your feet which causes pain in the tendon that runs along the arch of the foot. Some people, like Los Angeles Angels star Albert Pujols, battle through the pain until it becomes too intense to resume activity. In Pujols’ case, he ended his season early after dealing with foot pain for months, putting the $16 million player on the disabled list.
Treatment and prevention advice: Plantar fasciitis might seem like a minor ailment, but it can become a major pain if not treated properly. Proper footwear is one of the best preventative measures, as is a dedicated regime of stretching before and after activity. Once you start to have symptoms of plantar fasciitis, proper post-workout treatment and dialing back your activity could prevent a prolonged stint on the bench.
Ankle Sprain: Jose Reyes (Toronto Blue Jays)
You might think a sprained ankle is no big deal, but if it can keep a professional athlete off the diamond, it can keep you and me on the couch. Jays speedster Jose Reyes severely sprained his ankle while stealing a base back in April—an injury that caused him to miss 60 games and keep him out of the line-up until June. Ankle sprains come in varying degrees, from mild to severe, but all of them are accompanied with pain, swelling and weakness in the area. The worst thing about ankle sprains is that they tend to occur more frequently once an initial injury has occurred.
Treatment and prevention advice: Doctors want Reyes to wear an ankle brace for the rest of his career, and you’d be wise to heed the same advice if you’ve suffered sprains in the past. Proper footwear and exercising on even ground are two preventative measures that will keep your ankles happy and healthy and proper rehabilitation programs following injury will help prevent injuries in the future.
Hamstring and Quadriceps Strains: CC Sabathia (New York Yankees)
Overuse is a major factor in hamstring and quadriceps strains, affecting the large muscles on either side of the thigh. Inadequate warm-up and improper stretching can also lead to everything from a mild muscle pull to a full muscle tear. Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia was diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring in September. He didn’t show any signs of injury and finished the game, but the injury shut him down for the season with the forecast of an eight-week recovery period, keeping the $23 million man on the bench for New York’s postseason push.
Treatment and prevention advice: Prevention is important, so be sure to warm-up before strenuous activity and take time for an adequate cooldown that includes stretching. If you do suffer a hamstring or quadriceps pull, be sure to give your muscles a little break and carry out proper rehabilitation to get you back up to full speed. Rushing a hamstring or quad pull can lead to additional injury and scar tissue build-up.
Meniscus Tear: Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies)
One of the most common knee injuries occurs in the meniscus – the “c” shaped shock absorbers in the knee that dissipate force when you walk, run and jump. When meniscus tears, it causes pain and swelling and occasional torn fragments can get pinched in the knee and cause additional pain and swelling. They’re nasty, nagging injuries that get worse over time without proper treatment.
Treatment and prevention advice: Star slugger Ryan Howard’s knee started bothering him in May but he played in pain for two months until team doctors shut him down in July for meniscus surgery. Howard’s stint on the bench is costing his team nearly two months of his services, or roughly $8 million. Meniscus surgery can have you back in action in six weeks if it’s a simple meniscal trimming, but more complicated procedures will have you on the bench for 5-6 months. The key is identifying meniscus injuries when they occur and shutting down early rather than aggravating the knee, which could lead to things like arthritis and cartilage damage in the future.
Learn more about Beaumont Sports Medicine and some of the ways we can help get you back in the game and keep you there.