Injuries come in waves. One year ACL tears may be a glaring issues while other years Achilles-related injuries may appear to occur more frequently. However, apparent injury trends are often influenced by recency bias, particularly if a noteworthy player or two sustain the same injury. This year tears of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb have gained notoriety as big name players like Mike Trout and now Carlos Correa have sustained the injury. Trout missed just over six weeks recovering from his tear and subsequent surgery with Correa now slotted to follow a similar path to recovery.
Part of Trout’s relatively quick return to play was attributed to a new technique utilized during surgery. In addition to a ligament repair, Trout underwent an InternalBrace Ligament augmentation. This method involves reattaching the torn ligament at the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint, the articulation located where the base of the thumb meets the metacarpal bones of the hand. Once the ligament has been anchored back in its original location, it is then reinforced with a synthetic tape known as SutureTape.
The procedure reportedly allows for the injured individual to spend minimal time in a cast. Without an extended period of immobilization, the athlete can quickly begin range of motion exercises and minimize any potential strength loss. As a result, overall rehab time is diminished and the recovery window is shortened.
It hasn’t been confirmed whether Correa opted for an InternalBrace procedure. However, as Will Carroll, a former fantasy writer who currently works for the biomechanical analysis company Motus, noted, we should be able to figure out which path he took relatively easily. If Correa is spotted wearing a big bulky cast then he didn’t undergo a ligament augmentation.
In the meantime, fantasy owners will need to take a good hard look at the schedule for their respective leagues. Assuming Correa misses at least six weeks, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t be available for the start of the fantasy playoffs. He’s too good to drop in keeper or dynasty leagues, but it may become an option in one year leagues, especially if an InternalBrace wasn’t utilized.
The thumb isn’t the only digit vulnerable during a headfirst slide, as the Cubs infielder learned firsthand. Bryant suffered a pinkie sprain and laceration after jamming his hand into the cleat of Atlanta’s Johan Camargo. While the pinkie is the smallest of the fingers, it’s still functionally significant. The fifth digit plays a key role in grip strength, meaning Bryant’s power numbers could see a small dip if any associated symptoms linger. Fortunately, he missed just one game and looked fine in the two subsequent outings, finishing 4-for-8 with two runs and a RBI over the weekend.
Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg
Both Kershaw and Strasburg made early exits Sunday due to injury. In Los Angeles, the former National League MVP didn’t make it two innings against the Braves, as lower back tightness forced him from the game. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts later stated a DL stint would be necessary. The obvious concern here is the structural integrity of Kershaw’s back, specifically the intervertebral discs of his lumbar spine. If you will recall, last year Kershaw missed a little more than two months with a herniated disc that surfaced in late June. His current back tightness could be the result of a disc problem, though a muscular-related injury remains in play.
If this is a reoccurrence of the injury or a similar issue, fantasy owners easily could be without the top-ranked pitcher for the remainder of the regular season. Kershaw is slated to meet with a back specialist, and the team should provide an update and a potential timeline sometime in the coming days. For now, fantasy owners should cross their fingers that this is nothing more than a low-grade strain.
Like Kershaw, Strasburg is reporting a new problem with ties to his injury history. The Washington right-hander was lifted in the second inning with soreness in his forearm. The team downplayed the severity, calling the move “purely precautionary.” However, it is hard to ignore an elbow or forearm issue with a player whose past is filled with elbow-related injuries, including Tommy John. The terms used by Strasburg, including stiffness, achiness and tightness, suggest a muscular injury. However, an injury to one of the muscles of the forearm, particularly the flexor bundle, would leave his UCL vulnerable to injury. Consider him day-to-day for now with more information to surface following further evaluation.
Starlin Castro: Castro aggravated his previously strained hamstring and has returned to the DL. As noted often in the column, hamstring strains are notoriously fickle injuries that are easily irritated. Guys who rely on their speed are often affected more as the skill that makes them so valuable is so negatively impacted. Tyler Wade has been recalled to assume Castro’s spot on the active roster.
J.D. Martinez: The Diamondbacks had to be alarmed when their big mid-season acquisition was unable to complete his first game in an Arizona uniform. Fortunately, the stray pitch left Martinez with nothing more than a hand contusion. Still, the associated symptoms were significant enough to keep Martinez out of three straight contests before Sunday’s pinch hit appearance. The team is optimistic he will be in uniform Monday against the Braves.
Cameron Maybin: The Angels outfielder was placed on the 10-day DL with a low-grade knee sprain. Maybin’s official diagnosis was a Grade 1 sprain of his medial collateral ligament (MCL). The team is already expecting him to miss more than the allotted 10 days and have established a two-to-four-week recovery window. On the plus side, it appears Maybin avoided any meniscus damage, a common complication with MCL injuries. As a result, he can be treated non-operatively and will be able to return this season.
Aaron Sanchez: The Blue Jays starter is on the DL for the fourth time this season due to lingering blister problems. The team has attempted a variety of treatments, but the right-hander hasn’t been able to move past the problem. Given his current level of productivity and the unpredictability of the situation, fantasy owners would be best served looking elsewhere.
Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @InStreetClothes.
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