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Diamond Cuts: MVP Down

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Rafael Furcal and Josh Hamilton

One of the most highly debated topics in baseball is the proper method of sliding. Players have two options when approaching a base, headfirst or feet-first. Many athletes elect to use the headfirst slide under the assumption that it will get them to the plate quicker. However, a study by the University of Texas found no significant difference between the feet-first and headfirst options. While some may choose to debate which of the two options is safer, both methods come with associated injury risk.

The frequency of injury is likely higher in the headfirst slide. Players who elect to slide headfirst lose a degree of control, as they are unable to protect themselves from an opponent defending the base. They also expose their head and necks to injury. Furthermore, the headfirst slide makes individuals more prone to hand and upper extremity injuries. For example, the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal will miss four-to-six weeks after suffering a broken left thumb while sliding headfirst into third. Furcal joins a long list of players that have suffered thumb injuries while sliding including Chase Utley and Jason Heyward in 2010. Furcal will not need surgery, but is on the disabled list for the fifth time in six seasons with the Dodgers.

Reigning American League MVP Josh Hamilton also sustained a significant upper extremity injury when attempting a headfirst slide, suffering a broken arm while diving into home plate. Hamilton fractured the upper portion of his humerus, just below the shoulder, and will miss six-to-eight weeks. Fortunately, the fracture is not displaced and will not require surgery. Hamilton remains a talented player with a fragile body. He has bounced back from a myriad of injuries including broken ribs, a sports hernia, and a bout with pneumonia so it seems reasonable to suggest he can return to action once the bone mends.

In the meantime, the Rangers will turn to David Murphy and Mitch Moreland in an attempt to fill Hamilton's shoes. Fan favorite Chris Davis has been recalled from Triple-A Round Rock where he has already belted four homers.
 
Feet-first slides are not without risk either. The feet-first method can lead to a multitude of lower extremity injuries, particularly if the joint gets caught in the ground or is forcibly thrust into the base. For example, Phillies slugger Ryan Howard missed a portion of last season with a sprained ankle, suffered when he awkwardly slid into second base. Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez suffered a fractured ankle last season when he slid and his lead leg got stuck in the ground.

Hanley Ramirez and Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Sliding also has its dangers for the players protecting the bag and Florida's Ramirez and Minnesota's Nishioka found this out the hard way while each trying to turn a double play. With this particular play, the risk for the fielder all depends on how they position themselves. When a shortstop attempts to turn two, they will approach the bag from the infield side and attempt to touch their foot on the base while allowing their momentum to carry them toward the outfield. This allows the player to avoid the hard slide and puts them in a better position to make the throw to first. They are also able to see the oncoming runner and plan an escape route.

Unfortunately, timing is everything and an ill-timed plant of the foot makes that extremity rigid and susceptible to injury. A rigid, closed chain is created that is more likely to lead to a fracture or ligament injury than an open, flexible chain that is able to give and bend. Ramirez's injury was the result of an awkward throw from Omar Infante that not only caused Hanley to turn his back to the baserunner, but also placed him directly in the line of Houston's Bill Hall. Ramirez suffered a bruised tibia (shin bone) on the play and was forced to miss two games over the weekend. He returned Tuesday, going 0-for-4 against the Braves. Fantasy owners can plug Ramirez back into their lineups immediately but should anticipate a dip in speed until the bruise completely heals.

Nishioka's injury occurred because he attempted to turn the double play like a shortstop (his natural position in Japan) rather than a second baseman. He planted and did not use the base for protection. Instead, he positioned himself in the path of Nick Swisher and as a result suffered a fractured fibula. Nishioka is expected to miss four-to-six weeks and will fortunately avoid surgery. With Nishioka out, Michael Cuddyer has seen time at second base and should gain position eligibility soon.

Andres Torres

An Achilles tendon strain will force Torres out the remainder of the Giants' current series with the Dodgers, but the speedy outfielder will avoid a trip to the disabled list. Torres suffered the injury over the weekend in a game against St. Louis and a subsequent MRI confirmed the diagnosis. The Achilles tendon is the conjoined tendon of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, better known as the calf muscle. The calf is responsible for pointing the toes and plays an important component in running, particularly during acceleration. An Achilles strain can be particularly troublesome for a leadoff man like Torres. His game is predicated on speed and a strained Achilles would limit him at the plate and while patrolling center field. Torres will attempt to swing a bat in the next few days and hopes to return by the weekend. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see him significantly slowed by this injury.

Ryan Zimmerman and J.J. Hardy

In what is becoming a weekly trend, Hardy and Zimmerman have both been placed on the disabled list with oblique strains. Hardy's injury has been lingering for some time now and the Orioles have finally elected to shut him down for the next few weeks. Look for him to return in two to three weeks. Zimmerman's injury shouldn't come as much of a surprise since the Washington third baseman suffered a minor oblique strain in spring training. He aggravated the injury over the weekend while attempting, a (you guessed it) headfirst slide. Based on Zimmerman's history, it is probable he'll miss more time than Hardy and should be out three-to-four weeks.