RotoWire Partners

Diamond Cuts: UCL Forces the DL

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.


Bryce Harper

For the second straight season Harper will miss a significant stretch of the season with an injury attributed to his style of play. Last season he missed 31 games following a collision with an outfield wall that resulted in a severe case of knee bursitis. Now Harper's 2014 campaign has been derailed by a thumb injury suffered while aggressively sliding headfirst into third base.

Harper is the latest example of the dangers of sliding headfirst. While many perform the headfirst slide believing it to be quicker, the real answer isn't quite so clear. A study performed in 2002 found no significant difference between the feet-first and headfirst methods, while others have used physics to argue the headfirst slide is actually faster. While the debate on their advantages continues so too does the discussion on the inherent risks of each method of approaching the bag. When attempting to slide feet first, the runner has more control and can avoid contact with the base and any opposing players. However they open themselves up to lower leg injuries if the foot gets caught on the ground or jammed into the base. Think Jose Reyes in 2013.

In a headfirst approach, the player loses some control and make themselves susceptible to head or neck injuries. Furthermore fingers and hands injuries are more likely to be injured from being stepped on or hung up on the base. Several players, including Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig have already missed time this year after jamming their thumbs on a base. Harper's injury is more similar to Hamilton's as both players suffered complete ligament tears that required surgery to repair. I detailed the thumb two weeks ago when analyzing Hamilton but here's a quick refresher.

At the base of the thumb is the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint. The MCP joint is fortified by the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which attaches to the bottom of the proximal phalanx. When torn the UCL is repaired in surgery and the affected individual spends the next six-to-eight weeks rehabbing the area with a focus on range of motion and grip strength. As a result the player is unable to pick up a bat for an extended period of time, though conditioning can be maintained. Upon return, the player often experiences a dip in power as they adjust to gripping and swinging a bat fluidly. A return sometime in July seems realistic but fantasy owners should lower their expectations for the immediate future and potentially the remainder of the season. In the meantime, veteran Nate McLouth will fill Harper's vacated spot in the outfield.

Ryan Braun

While a thumb injury continues to bother Braun, a new and perhaps more limiting injury has emerged. Braun has been diagnosed with a strained right oblique after the injury was initially believed to be an intercostal strain.

The oblique muscles are located on either side of the rib cage and are divided into two groups, the external obliques and the internal obliques. The muscles on one side contract with the other group on the opposite side to complete trunk rotation. For a right-handed player like Braun, his left internal obliques contract along with his right external obliques to complete a swing or throw a ball. Compound this injury with his preexisting thumb injury and it's hard to have much confidence in Braun's ability at the plate. The Brewers have yet to place him on the disabled list and will let him attempt batting practice Tuesday. However the DL remains a likely destination and Braun owners should begin preparing for him to miss at least an additional week or two.

Mark Trumbo

Trumbo's hot start was significantly cooled by the appearance of a stress fracture to the third metatarsal of his left foot. The metatarsals are the elongated bones located between the bones of the midfoot and the bones of the toes. The third metatarsal near the middle of the foot and is one of the most common stress fractures of the foot. Trumbo also mentioned that the MRI revealed similar signs of trauma in his fourth metatarsal as well as his plantar fascia. All of these issues are indicators that this injury is significant and will likely take longer than the initial estimate of six weeks. Basically the primary support system for Trumbo's midfoot is failing and the stability of the whole area has been compromised. Additionally there are signs that the anatomical problems may be at the root of the problem.

Trumbo has previously battled stress fractures having endured a stress injury to the navicular bone in his opposite foot. If there is a structural problem, Trumbo could opt to undergo surgery to realign the bones in his foot to better handle the associated stress from playing baseball. However a procedure of this magnitude would cost him a considerable amount of time and that doesn't appear to be a current option. Look for the Diamondbacks to treat him conservatively and don't be surprised if he misses two months or more recovering.

Check Swings

Shin-Soo Choo: The Rangers leadoff hitter is expected to return to the starting lineup Tuesday after missing the last week with a sprained ankle. He did appear as a pinch hitter Monday and is expected to play DH upon his return. Look for him to head back into the outfield when his lateral quickness is back and the joint is no longer a limiting factor.

Clayton Kershaw: The reigning Cy Young winner continues to make progress in his rehab assignment and is slated to make his final rehab start Wednesday for Double-A Chattanooga. Barring any setbacks he could be back Monday or Tuesday, setting him up for a two-start week. Kershaw has been sidelined since late March with a strained teres major in his back.

Jean Segura: Braun did make contact with something over the weekend but unfortunately it was his teammate. In a scary incident, Segura was inadvertently stuck in the head by Braun's bat while the former MVP attempted a warm up swing. The impact opened a laceration on Segura's face that required stitches but the he did manage to avoid any facial fractures and was not diagnosed with a concussion. While he will not need a stay on the 7-day DL, Segura is expected to miss a few more games recovering. He hopes to play by the weekend.