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Sunday, February 10, 2013

LET THEM HEAL: THE PRESSURES OF ATHLETES TO GET BETTER

All this talk of lists and out of context accusatory dialogue is blurring the line between healthy methods of injury recovery versus inappropriate and dishonest ones.  Athletes get hurt.  It is a known fact.  It is unavoidable.  And it happens all of the time. 

Many of you may know that I am a runner, a marathon runner to be exact.  I completed my second marathon in November and I am planning my running schedule for the year and it includes yet another marathon towards the end of 2013.  I am very careful about things like hydration, diet, cross training, strength and conditioning and stretching.

According to the article “Don’t Get Hurt” in March’s injury-prevention edition special of Runner’s World, “Most experts agree that to lower injury risk, you need not a magic bullet but a loaded gun.  One with a three-bullet chamber:  a strong body, good form, and the right shoe.”  Although running is not baseball, there are many similarities.

Let’s face it- the marathon 162 game season is grueling.  It is long, it is hot, it includes traveling, it includes germs, it includes workouts, and it includes a pre-season and if you are one of the lucky teams, a post-season.   And it is difficult to maintain a strong body and good form all season long.  The shoes are a bit easier to keep up with, but the first two bullets, take a lot of work.  Runners agree that if it is not difficult, it is not worth it.  No pain, no gain- just visualize the finish line.  Well, baseball players practice this as well and 9-innings take a lot of endurance and a healthy body.


Many of the guys play sick, play through bruises and strains, and yes even emotional trauma.  And it is hard.  And when you get hurt, well, it is whole different kind of battle.  One of the most common injuries is what Eric Chavez regularly experienced- muscle strains.  According to ESPN (HERE), when you are thinking about choosing a fantasy player you have to ask yourself a series of questions, “Is a player you are considering prone to repetitive muscle strains? Or has he experienced a recent string of multiple muscle strains, even in different body regions (like Eric Chavez), which might suggest that he is wearing down physically, especially if his baseball age is climbing? How fit is the athlete? Better conditioning appears to be one factor in maintaining better overall health.”

And conditioning is a discipline, a mind-set.  But when pressure sets in to perform and inflated contracts are staring you right in the face, when does the healthy way of working out and rebounding from an injury go away, and the inappropriate ways of building up step in?

 According to the journal Clinics in Sport Medicine (HERE)To quote Oriole baseball pitcher Jim Palmer, "cortisone is a miracle drug... for a week!" Perhaps this is because in rheumatologic disease, inflammation is the problem, whereas in sports injury, performance recovery depends on restoration of both the injured tissue and its kinetic environment. The tendency to place an inflammatory label (i.e., "itis") on sports-induced pain has promoted the value of anti-inflammatory treatment while risking a de-emphasis of the role of physical rehabilitation and even well-timed surgical repair.” 

It is faster and easier to use performance enhancement drugs to remedy injuries than rehab using approved medicinal practices and therapy.  Now, I am not saying that all athletes who choose this easier route do so because of injury, I am saying that is one reason why some do.  And pressure is another reason why most try and rush back from an injury before “next guy in” takes over for good.  Not to mention “the you are a star one-day and a bum the next” kind of mentality that many fans and media play. 

So as we continue to watch the drama unveil regarding PEDs in baseball, I ask you to think for a moment about the athlete under the helmet.  The man who grew up loving the game so much that he would give up movies, dates, family functions, and hanging out with his buddies so that he could get stronger, visit this training camp or that college coach in order to get a shot at the dance.  Losing this, whether you are 19 or 39 is not an option because the passion is so raw and so real.  Let’s give our injured athletes time to heal because all this pressure to get better faster is ruining our sport and that’s something that needs some healing.



--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Opinion Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof




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