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Diamond Cuts: Cramping Conundrum

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.

Torii Hunter

The Tigers consider Hunter day-to-day after he suffered a hamstring injury in Monday’s loss to the Royals. The injury was not diagnosed as a strain, but instead as a cramp – which seems to be a pretty popular setback of late (see LeBron, USMNT).

For reference, a cramp is an involuntary and painful contraction of a muscle. Athletes in action are prone to experiencing what is known as a tonic spasm. In these types of cramps, the forced muscle contraction is unrelenting and the muscle fails to relax. As a result, the effected individual is unable to utilize the muscle properly. Furthermore, any attempt to play through a severe cramp is painful and can lead to a more significant injury to the problematic muscle as well as other areas along the kinetic chain.

The exact cause of cramps is debated and often varies on a case-by-case basis. Overexertion and muscle fatigue can result in cramps. Excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes also plays a factor. Additionally it appears that genetics in certain athletes may make them more predisposed to cramping.

While the cause of Hunter’s cramps may not ever be pinpointed, it is important to ensure he lets the muscle properly recuperate. Hunter has a history of hamstring issues in both legs dating all the way back to the 2004 season. If he attempts to play on a weakened leg, he increases his chances of actually straining the area. A strain would likely result in a trip to the disabled list. Look for Hunter to receive a game or two off to preemptively avoid a more serious injury.

Adam Wainwright
One of the top pitchers in the league this season, Wainwright had his last start skipped after it was determined he is dealing with a mild case of tendinitis in his throwing arm. An MRI on the affected area confirmed Wainwright’s surgically repaired ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) remains intact, and no damage to the flexor bundle has occurred. The condition has been likened to tennis elbow, which will be explained further below.

Tennis elbow is the common name for a disorder known as a lateral epicondylitis. It is a condition that results from overuse and involves the extensor muscles that attach to the lateral aspect of the humerus. However, Wainwright never received an official diagnosis of tennis elbow, and the area of pain in the posterior aspect of his elbow suggests that Wainwright’s issue could involve his triceps.

The triceps sits on the posterior aspect of the arm and plays a key role in pitching mechanics. Like the muscles that attach to the lateral epicondyle, the triceps’ primary function is elbow extension. It also plays a role in joint stabilization. However, the attachment site is different as the triceps connects to the olecranon process, a bony outgrowth on the ulna. The olecranon also serves as an attachment site for the UCL. A weakened triceps could lead to undue stress on the UCL and increase an individual’s risk for an injury at this location.

Regardless of the exact location of Wainwright’s tendinitis, the Cardinals are wise to handle the situation cautiously. Doing so should allow their ace to avoid any serious complications or and prevent the injury from becoming worse. The skipped start and anti-inflammatory medication seem to be working as planned, and Wainwright remains on track to rejoin the team Saturday against the Phillies. Keep him in your rotation and hope this is a minor blip on the radar.

Check Swings

Bronson Arroyo: The Arizona right-hander landed on the DL for the first time in his career with an elbow injury, and is expected to be out until the All-Star break. The injury has been reported by some media outlets as tendinitis, though the Arizona Republic is reporting Arroyo has an irritated flexor bundle and strained UCL. Since a ligament is not strained, I’ll assume they meant sprain. The latter report seems to better hold up with the estimated timeline of recovery, though all of that would be moot if he winds up needing season-ending Tommy John surgery. Given the lack of success with conservative treatment for a UCL sprain, it’s best to consider other options moving forward.

Carlos Gonzalez: The exploratory surgery on Gonzalez’s injured left index finger revealed a benign tumor, which was promptly removed. The tumor itself was graphically described as a “fatty mass with tentacles” – sorry for the shudder you just experienced – and was reportedly attached to a nerve and a neighboring blood vessel. Cysts and cell masses are actually fairly common in the wrist, hands, and finger, and there appears to be no long-term concern here. Gonzalez hopes to return in about five weeks.

Hisashi Iwakuma: Iwakuma was skipped Monday after reporting stiffness in his neck. He will not throw his regular bullpen session this week, but the injury seems to be minor and the Mariners believe he will be available Friday.

Cliff Lee: The latest reports on Lee have been encouraging, and he is preparing to throw off a mound in the near future. The former Cy Young winner has been rehabbing a strained flexor tendon and is on track for an early-July return.

Carlos Pena: The veteran first baseman isn’t injured but could capitalize on the injury woes of others. With Prince Fielder (neck) and Mitch Moreland (ankle) sidelined by long-term ailments, the Rangers have signed Pena to a minor league deal. He isn’t guaranteed a spot just yet but could pick up some value if he shows he has anything left in the tank.

Buster Posey: The catcher position is vulnerable to head injuries, as many of the league’s concussions over the last few seasons have occurred behind the plate. Posey appears to have avoided joining this year’s list after taking a ball off the mask in Sunday’s game. The former All-Star passed his concussion exam and benefited from a team day off Monday. The Giants expect him to be in the lineup on Tuesday against the White Sox.

Matt Wieters: Wieters has finally opted to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the remainder of the season. Surgery is set for Tuesday and the All-Star catcher will spend the next nine months recovering. He should be back in time for spring training, so though he will not be of any more help in one-year leagues, he still has some value in keeper formats.