Oblique Injuries in MLB

Like the 2011 regular season, the 2011 post-season has already seen a number of high-profile oblique injuries. Last evening, Tigers DH Victor Martinez launched a solo home run to right field – and strained his oblique in the process. While his status is day-to-day, teammate Delmon Young‘s own oblique strain suffered in Detroit’s Game 5 win over the Yankees in the Division Series has revealed that the injury, however mild, can linger for days or, in some cases, weeks. Tigers skipper Jim Leyland is well aware of the anxiety that is coupled with an oblique injury, saying after the series win over New York, “I learned a long time ago when the word oblique is mentioned, I get nervous… I’ve never seen an oblique all right in a day or two. It’s never happened as long as I’ve been managing.”

So, while the Tigers will have to deal with two middle-of-the-lineup hitters nursing tender obliques, it’s an injury that has become all too common in Major League Baseball. Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria, Jason Bay, J.A. Happ, Curtis Granderson, Brian Wilson, Jair Jurrjens, and Ryan Zimmerman are some of the players who were slowed by oblique injuries in 2011, with Zimmerman drastically altering his throwing mechanics to minimize the risk of future injury to the oblique, and in the process, he struggled through the worst defensive year of his career according to UZR.

Oblique injuries may also be termed abdominal strains, rib cage strains, or intercostal strains (the intercostal nerves are the thoracic spinal nerves that serve the oblique muscles). The oblique muscles are the largest group of muscles in the torso, extending down from the lower armpit and rib cage to the pelvis on the sides of the body. For a baseball player, or any athlete for that matter, these muscles serve as a crucial bridge from the upper to lower body. And, in a sport as physically rotational as baseball, the oblique muscles are fired, flexed, stretched, and strained on every swing, pitch, or throw.

There are several theories that attempt to explain the spate of oblique injuries in MLB. LA Dodgers head trainer Stan Conte told the NY Times in April that he felt the increase in the injury was due to the fact that players, more than ever before, are transitioning too quickly from off-season mode to spring training to regular season games, and the large abdominal muscles simply break down. He notes that, since 1991, one-third of all oblique injuries have occurred in April.

The most interesting theory, however, comes as a result of the more stringent MLB Drug Policy. While players are no longer taking illegal steroids, they are turning to the dietary supplement creatine, which is both legal and ubiquitous in MLB. Sports physician Lewis Maharam told the NY Daily News in April that creatine can help build lean muscle and improve explosiveness, but the supplement also adds water molecules to muscle fibers, which can cause the fibers to separate, which in turn, leads to muscle tears and strains.

As Delmon Young’s mobility in the OF has shown anyone with vision, the oblique strain is not a “tape it up and get out there” type of injury. It’s an all-consuming, debilitating ailment that will certainly hinder the Tigers chances against the Rangers in the ALCS. For the sport’s sake, more research on the causes of the injury is needed and better training methods need to be indoctrinated. Baseball is at it’s best when the best players are on the field.



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MCCARVER!!!
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MCCARVER!!!
4 years 8 months ago

A game of oblique angles has become a game of oblique injuries.

Ryan
Member
Ryan
4 years 8 months ago

Yes, Mr McCarver. Oblique injuries happen because the athletes don’t stretch enough! Incompetent buffoons!

Joe Buck
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Joe Buck
4 years 8 months ago

Very clever. High five like thing!

Tito
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Tito
4 years 8 months ago

Why are you back?

buddy
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buddy
4 years 8 months ago

My favorite part of the game last night was V-Mart’s first PA after the injury. He was clearly hurting and the cameras showed him several times, stalling for time around the on-deck circle, just pretending that he could still hit so that they wouldn’t IBB Cabrera. Then he stepped to the plate, didn’t even think of swinging, and they walked him.

Lex Logan
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Lex Logan
4 years 8 months ago

Since creatine is legal, an obvious step would be to survey all players to find who is using it, how frequently, etc. and then compare that to injuries.

Andrew
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Andrew
4 years 8 months ago

Delmon’s lack of mobility in the OF isn’t because of his oblique, it’s because he’s a terrible, terrible defensive player (and player overall). I’m sure the oblique doesn’t help though…

Morse
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Morse
4 years 8 months ago

As a nats fan, I can tell you that Zimmermans defense has still been great- he just has a few more throwing errors.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

Creatine’s main function is to supply phosphate to the energy cycle that turns ADP into ATP … for high intense activities lasting 60-90 seconds or so. It enables you to “add muscle” by providing more “energy” during intense workouts. My favorite creatine “studies” are the ones where they start with a guy that in a dehydrated state (who has lost 10 pounds of water weight) and then “loads” creatine for 2 weeks and adds “20 pounds”. Essentially he gains back the 10 pounds due to rehydration and adds another 10 pounds as the creatine facilitates water retention during the intial week where you’re taking mega-amounts. This is what happens when supplement studies are not regulated by the FDA.

I was going to suggest something about the transfer to an emphasis on rotational mechanics in both hitting and pitching.

Watching games from previous decades, you see a lot of hitters taking their hands directly to the ball (linear mechanics) and just being slappy type hitters.

In pitching the emphasis is on shoulder-hip separation (increasing the distance between the two) and as late and violent as rotation as one can get. Think Lincecum for an extreme example.

The likely “accurate” answer is a combination of factors.

Creatine would be far down on my list, but it’s always got to be some type of supplement, right?

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

Another aspect is the function of the core in sports, the facilitate the transfer of lower body power/force to to the upper body/limbs and ball/bat.

Look at the legs on players since the 90s. Tree. Freackin. Trunks.

I watched a cardinals WS video the other day highlighting the 82, 85, and 87 WS. It is literally amazing how slight and slappy the players look compared to now. Pete Vuckivich, aw hell I can’t spell it … y’know Clew Heywood from Major League and Kent Hrbek were like beasts/sloths back then. Now they’re average.

When you look at the mass and power of the lower body and the force that generates, and you’re asking the much smaller muscles of core to transfer that power, obviously the weakest link in the chain is the most vulnerable.

Quads, Glutes, and hip flexors are simply just so much stronger than the core.

It’s just humorous to compare the physiques of Harveys Wallbangers Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Ben Ogilve, Robin Yount to the bodies of Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, etc. We’re talking in some cases 50 pounds … and a bad 50 pounds.

When you look at how many times these guys swing a bat and throw a ball during one season and the likely imbalance of strength between base (quads, glutes, hip flexors) and core (abs, obliques), it’s sort of amazing that there aren’t more oblique injuries than there are.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

and NOT a bad 50 pounds it should read, as in it’s mostly muscle.

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