Atlanta Braves Morning Chop: Shoulders, Stadiums, Mudcats

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Sep 8, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher

Mike Minor

(36) pitches during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated Atlanta Braves 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Shoulder Injuries Are Serious Business


[ Editor’s note:  Staff Writer Fred Owens has written often about shoulder injuries.  The quoted portion below appeared just before Mike Minor was seeing Dr. James Andrews about the injury for which he had surgery yesterday.  Check out the link above for the full story… lots of interesting detail about why shoulders are actually more problematic than the dreaded Ulnar Collateral Ligament. ]

More from Tomahawk Take

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 movement of the shoulder is described (in the Crasnik piece and many others) as similar to taking a piece of hemp rope and pulling it back and forth across the corner of a table. Every movement causes the rope to fray and heat up. In the shoulder that’s inflammation of the rotator cuff or tendonitis.

Everyone’s rotator cuff frays, but pitchers – and quarterbacks, those who throw the javelin and others using the motion often – are likely to see the tendonitis recur and eventually see the cuff will tear.

Repetitive high stress movement may also cause damage to the labrum – stabilizing cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket and makes the shoulder joint loose. There are divergent opinions on whether it’s damage to the labrum or extra stress on the ligaments that cause loosening of the joint. Whatever its cause, the shoulder joint is never going to be tight again.

In other words, if your shoulder has become an issue it will always be an issue.  Exercise may mitigate it, your body may be able to adapt and allow you to continue in spite of it, but the shoulder will always be weaker.