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Diamond Cuts: Evan Gattis's Back Injury

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.

Evan Gattis

The Braves catcher has been placed on the disabled list with a back injury. The team has diagnosed the injury as a bulging disc in the thoracic region of his spine.

The spine itself is comprised of 33 vertebrae and divided into five segments. The cervical region is the first seven vertebrae and makes up the neck. The next 12 vertebrae are included in the thoracic region and articulate with the rib cage. The lower and larger five vertebrae comprise the lumbar region followed by the fused bones of the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebrae of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar area form the articulating spine. These bones are specifically designed to allow for movement and are each separated by an intravertebral disc.

The discs are comprised of fibrocartilage, a specialized form of cartilage that allows for both stability and flexibility. The intravertebral discs also serve as the primary shock absorbers of the spine. However sometimes excessive strain or stress forces the discs out of position and they are classified as bulging or herniated. The associated symptoms depend on the degree of the bulge. In severe cases, disc material will actually begin to pinch and impede on the neighboring nerves.

The location of the bulge is worrisome. Lumbar disc injuries are more common as this area bears a higher degree of weight but thoracic injuries can be more problematic. The available space in the area is very limited and even the slightest bulge can put pressure on the spinal canal and spinal cord. If nerve tissue becomes an involved, Gattis will not only be in discomfort but could see a loss of strength or even function. Nerve tissue also requires a considerably longer amount of time to heal. To further complicate matters, the thoracic region does not flex much and is more involved in rotational movements. It's hard to imagine a hard-hitting catcher unable to perform tasks like throwing or swinging a bat.

The severity of Gattis' injury has not been publically revealed but the Braves have stated he will receive an epidural to treat the inflammation in the area. If the inflammation will subside, Gattis may be relived of the accompanying back spasms he has been experiencing. However if the outer layers of the disc are significantly damaged, surgery could be an option and an extensive time off would be necessary. Fantasy owners invested in Gattis have to hope the epidural, a specific rehab protocol, and extended rest help resolve the problem or face the possibility of a truncated season.

Jose Altuve

The Astros second baseman reported swelling in his elbow after being struck by a pitch during Monday's loss to the Mariners. Altuve downplayed the incident and said he plans to be in the lineup on Tuesday. Excessive swelling can be linked to multiple injuries including a simple soft tissue contusion. However keep an eye on the situation to see if the bursa sac in the elbow was involved. Bursa are fluid-filled sacs located throughout the body that serve to reduce friction in joints, particularly between bone and muscle. Following a direct blow the bursa in the elbow will often swell considerably. However the associated inflammation often subsides rather quickly and wouldn't require a lengthy absence.

David Wright

The face of the Mets franchise has not played in four straight outings after suffering what is being called a bruised left rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is actually a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder blade and the head of humerus. As their name suggests these muscles are responsible for rotating the shoulder in multiple directions. The associated inflammation is being treated with medication and the Mets don't feel a trip to the DL will be warranted. However the tendons of the rotator cuff are situated in a very small space and inflammation of the area can result in other shoulder issues, including impingement or even a true tear. A MRI revealed there is currently no structural damage in Wright's shoulder but the Mets would be wise to proceed with caution.

Check Swings

Jose Bautista: The Blue Jays hope plan on having Bautista back in the lineup on Tuesday after he sat for six games and was regulated to a pinch-hitting role in another. Bautista suffered a mild hamstring strain and will be eased back into things, staying off the field and restricted to the DH spot initially. However all signs point to this being a minor setback on what has so far been an impressive season.

Carlos Gonzalez: CarGo has begun hitting from a tee, a good indicator he is making progress in his rehab following surgery to remove a benign cyst from his finger. Barring any setback, the Rockies could welcome him back into the fold in before the All-Star break.

Bryce Harper: The Nationals outfielder made his return to the diamond on Monday, finishing 1-for-3 with a RBI. Harper missed nearly two months recovering from a torn ligament in his thumb. Plug him back into your lineups and hope the power numbers bounce back as his grip improves.

Josh Reddick: Reddick is back on the DL with a right knee ailment. The Oakland outfielder initially suffered the injury after hyperextending the joint on May 31. The injury is now being described as a strain, though it is unclear if it's a new injury or simply an aggravation of the previous one. The term hyperextension isn't actually an injury but instead a description of what occurred at the joint. A hyperextension can result in a strain and it seems likely that was the case with Reddick. The A's will limit his activity for at least five days and should get a better idea of how long he will be out after they review his MRI.

CC Sabathia: The former Cy Young Winner is slated to make a rehab start Thursday for Double-A Trenton. Sabathia has made steady progress through rehab after undergoing a stem cell treatment on an inflamed knee. Though the number of starts he will make on the assignment remains unknown, Sabathia appears on track for a July return.