If you have been paying attention to 2015 Spring Training, you will see that Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers is having a little bit of elbow discomfort. The injury that Darvish has is being described by the team is an elbow sprain. It seems that this term on many occasions morphs in to a UCL injury (ulnar collateral ligament), and very rarely does it have any other outcome than Tommy John surgery. The outlook for the Texas Rangers was not good to begin with, and now with their ace most assuredly gone for the season, it has become dismal. Anyway, I was thinking about the amount of pitchers that are succumbing to UCL injuries, and asked myself if the frequency of this particular injury is now higher than it was 10 or 20 years ago? It certainly seems that way. In the past few seasons we have seen this injury to Matt Harvey, Joel Hanrahan, Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez, and now Darvish along with several others. Why? Is it because today’s pitchers are bigger with different mechanics? Is it because they throw harder with what is termed as ‘maximum effort’ on every pitch? Is it because most pitchers have been at it for a long time, from the time that they were kids thru the time that their arms simply just let go? Perhaps it is a combination of all of these factors…
My point of all of this is not to get into the weeds of the bio-mechanics of cause and effect. It is more the simple question of what, if anything, can be done to diminish the frequency of this plague-like injury? I am not a doctor ( and no, I do not play on on TV either…), so I really don’t have an answer. Would limiting a pitchers work in the off-season or spring training be helpful? Darvish had done only minimal work in spring training this season, and now he is gone. I do not think that overwork is the issue here. Players have off-season conditioning programs which are generally effective, but in the case of these injured players, not so much.
In the case of the Texas Rangers, they will lose one pitcher, but he was their ace, and the one thing that they could have hung their hat on this season. We probably not see him again until mid-2016. That is going to be a long drought in Arlington Texas. What did the loss of Matt Harvey (Mets) and Jose Fernandez (Marlins) mean to their teams? In the long run, if MLB keeps losing it’s marquee players, they are going to want to do something to protect the product. The question again is ‘what’? I am hopeful that somehow it will get figured out. Players are having their careers dramatically altered, if not ended by UCL injuries. I would like to think that we have some of the best training methods and best sports doctors in the world. Surely they would have some input.
I wish the best for Yu Darvish, and going forward, any other player who suffers a UCL or any other injury. I understand all too well that it is part of the game. My hope is that there will be an answer to the question of injury reduction.