Shoulder Injuries Are Serious Business

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Braves starer Mike Minor (36) Will visit Dr. Andrews next week to find out why he’s experiencing shoulder tightness again. Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

News this week that Mike Minor would miss Sunday’s start and is now set to visit Doctor Andrews poured cold water on what we all hoped would be a rapid return to form for the Braves lefty.  At this point no one is suggesting that Minor’s shoulder is anything other than sore and tight due to overuse again this spring.  It is however worth revisiting why shoulders are so problematic.

Shouldering The Burden

The worst thing about a should injury is that it isn’t an elbow.  While elbow injuries are the most dramatic and widely discussed, there is a repair with a high success rate. That’s not so with shoulder injuries.

Shoulder injury remains the most common recurring problem for pitchers. Fourteen months ago I wrote an in depth look at shoulder injuries and rather than recount the detail in that post I recommend that as background for this update. The multitude of things that can go wrong and how those thing affect the player make severity of such injuries harder to diagnose, take Jason Schmidt’s case for example.

You may remember that Schmidt was one of the most sought after free agent pitchers following the 2006 season. After moving to the Giants in 2002 he averaged 201 innings and 200 strikeouts a year while posting a 3.35 ERA (3.28 FIP) and a 127 ERA+ over five seasons. He signed with the Dodgers and made just six starts posting a 6.31 ERA; understandable when your fastball sits between 82 and 85.

According to an article for ESPN by Jerry Crasnick Schmidt was mystified. He told Crasnick, “I thought the radar gun was broken.” He wasn’t nearly as mystified as the doctors who according to Crasnick, “. . .were stunned that Schmidt could even reach home plate with his pitches.

The damage included a torn labrum, frayed biceps tendon and inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction in the shoulder.”  Schmidt’s shoulder didn’t quit over night; there was no single event that caused this. Every pitcher has an injured shoulder, it’s the nature of the job and Schmidt’s shoulder finally said “I quit.”