By John Verros
As we all know, the start of the 2020 MLB season has been indefinitely delayed. This is obviously best for everyone in terms of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but what effect will this delay have on the players’ health outlook upon returning to play?
It’s possible that this postponement will interrupt the typical two to three-month cycle of gradually ramping up workloads. Most players are assuredly staying in playing shape, but it is yet to be determined just how influential this break will be on the number of injuries we see within the first couple months of play. The last delay in the start of an MLB season was in 1995 – long before Sports Info Solutions started tracking injury data. It will be interesting to see the final impact once we are able to compare this season to the previous few.
For some players this is a disruption in their normal cycle of work, but for several players this delay is a blessing in disguise. Below are six players who were either in need of an extra one to two months in order to get back to full health, or were questionable to make opening day.
Miles Mikolas – Mikolas was shut down in late February with a right forearm flexor strain and had been expected to open the 2020 season on the injured list. This injury can be acute or it can develop over time through overuse. During his rehabilitation, Mikolas has undergone two PRP injections in order promote healing of the affected forearm flexor.
While he was unlikely to be ready for the start of the season, the potential addition of a couple months could be just what was needed for Mikolas. Playing before an injury has healed can create a bigger problem, such as a ligament injury. The forearm flexors are known to protect the ligaments of the elbow. In a study done by Hodgins et al. (2017) 19.4% of MLB players required UCL reconstruction within 365 days of sustaining a forearm injury. Let’s hope this added time off will allow Miles to get the proper treatment he needs to get his arm correct.
Mike Clevenger – Mike Clevinger underwent surgery on Feb. 14th to repair a partial tear of the medial meniscus in his left knee. He has made it a goal to return on the earlier end of his six- to eight-week timeframe.
From the sounds of it, Clevinger underwent a partial meniscectomy. This surgery entails the removal of frayed or slightly torn pieces of the medial meniscus. This has a better outlook when compared to a meniscus repair, which involves suturing the torn pieces of the meniscus together. Rehab following meniscus repair surgery is more extensive than rehab after a partial meniscectomy because you have to allow the torn meniscus to heal. As a right-handed pitcher, this is Clevinger’s plant leg.
This knee absorbs a large amount of force/stress every time he plants during a pitch. Even with a conservative approach we should see Clevinger available no later than the middle of May. I do not expect this injury to have a negative impact on his season.
Aaron Judge – On March 6, Judge was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib. Judge originally complained of soreness in his right shoulder/pectoral and now we know the cause was due to this rib fracture. The ribs are an uncommon site for a stress fracture, but through repetitive or intensified loading, they can possibly occur. Rib stress fractures typically appear as a weakened area in the bone due to the previously stated repetitive loading through the ribs causing the formation of microscopic cracks. That could explain why it took quite some time for the Yankees to pinpoint the cause of Judge’s pain.
The majority of baseball players with this injury take several months of conservative rehab to heal fully. However, some players end up having symptoms similar to thoracic outlet syndrome (numbness and tingling down the affected arm). While TOS is not the norm in this situation, the result would be the removal of the first rib. It’s difficult to say at this point what Aaron Judge’s outlook for the 2020 season will be, but this additional time is certainly going to benefit his health.
Giancarlo Stanton – Giancarlo Stanton was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his right calf on February 25. This injury typically takes 3-4 weeks to fully heal and is notorious for having a moderate risk of re-injury. Due to the delay of the season, the Yankees have been able to ensure the health of Stanton’s calf by taking his rehab process slowly.
Stanton progressed from anti-gravity treadmill work (less strenuous than traditional treadmill) to throwing and on-field drills. Stanton appeared in only 18 regular-season games for the Yankees in 2019 due to multiple injuries, including a left biceps strain, left shoulder strain, left calf strain, partial quad tear, and a right knee PCL sprain. Let’s hope that Stanton is not only ready for the new start to the season, but is also able to stay healthy throughout the 2020 season.
Nick Senzel – Senzel underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder back in September of 2019. He suffered the injury while crashing into the center field wall on August 31. Before the halt in play due to the virus, Senzel was already participating fully in Cactus League action as a designated hitter.
However, he was not able to gain clearance to play in the field and that’s most likely in order to avoid having to make any long throws from the outfield. He’s been throwing from the outfield in drills, but it’s smart to bring him along gradually. This labrum injury will require constant maintenance from Senzel and the Reds training staff. Opening Day originally felt like he was putting his shoulder through unnecessary risk so this break could really pay off for the young outfielder.
Justin Verlander – Due to this indefinite break, Justin Verlander and his team decided to take care of what sounds like a sports hernia. Though not confirmed yet, this issue has seemingly been an annoyance to him quite recently. I question whether he would have undergone this procedure on his groin if they were in the midst of a full regular season.
There’s a six-week timeline associated with this “right groin surgery” which has led me to the belief of a sports hernia. Although a sports hernia may lead to a traditional, abdominal hernia, it is a different injury. A sports hernia is a strain or tear of any soft tissue in the lower abdomen/groin area. Particularly vulnerable are the tendons that attach the oblique muscles and thigh muscles (groin) to the pubic bone.
I’m curious if his latissimus dorsi strain from early March was associated with this injury at all. His pitching mechanics possibly were altered due to his groin irritation. This is unlikely to impact Verlander during whatever is left of the 2020 season.