Hurtin’ Hillbillies

Jed, Darwin and Tommy perform their hit single, “She’s got six toes and a six-shooter”
Photo Credit: Myrna Litt

With names like Jed, Darwin and Tommy, you would think this article was about the winners of a woodchuck shooting contest in Upstate NY. Or maybe these three fellas were all busted for DWI while driving a John Deere through a McDonald’s drive-thru. Hell, they may even have the same sister…who’s also their mother. No, this isn’t a story about rednecks and hillbillies, it’s an injury report on Jed Lowrie, Darwin Barney and Tommy Hanson. In addition, because I’m such a charitable human being, I’ll address a few other players just to please my peeps. Pay attention kids, I’m about to educate you yet again, hopefully you read carefully.

Starting with the biggest name of the bunch, Tommy Hanson has been placed on the Disabled List with left shoulder inflammation. MRI of the shoulder reveals inflammation only, no structural damage, which is good (kinda). If you’ve ever read my stuff before, you know I don’t like to hear about injuries to a pitcher’s throwing shoulder. There are many causes of shoulder inflammation and most of them aren’t good. The question is will this be a Josh Johnson or a Wandy Rodriguez type of recovery? Will Hanson be out an extended period of time (JJ) or return shortly when eligible (Wandy)? From the reports I’ve read, Hanson looks more likely to have a Wandy-like recovery. It’s reported that Hanson has had some lingering soreness in the shoulder for the last couple starts, and the Braves were wise to shut him down as a precaution.

As with any pitcher, the possibility of missing extended time due to injury is always a possibility, and Hanson is no exception. However, I’m looking at Hanson with a glass half-full outlook here. He struck out 14 his last start, indicating his arm strength and stuff are just fine. The Braves also contemplated not placing him on the DL and were actually hopeful he’d only miss one start, also a positive sign. With the kid gloves approach the Braves are taking with their young ace and the lack of structural damage on MRI, I’m optimistic this will be just a minor bump in the road for Hanson and we’ll see him back within a 2-4 week timetable. Probably.

Waiver wire extraordinaire Darwin Barney hit the DL with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right knee. What exactly is the PCL? Well, inside your knee there are two ligaments that help hold it together, the PCL and much more (in)famous ACL. The PCL prevents your tibia (shin bone) from displacing in a posterior direction (slide backwards) from the femur (thigh bone). This injury typically occurs when there’s a blunt force applied to a bent knee, for example a car accident where your knees ram into the dashboard or a fall where you land with a bent knee on the edge of a curb. While it’s not a rare injury, isolated PCL injuries are much less common than ACL or MCL injuries and can be tricky to rehab.

Thankfully, the Cubs have disclosed that Barney’s MRI revealed a grade 1 sprain, which is the most minor type, and Barney is expected to miss three weeks. Typical recovery time for a grade 1 ligament sprain is 1-2 weeks. There’s no appreciable tearing of the ligament, mainly some mild laxity (looseness, think MDS’s Mom) with pain and inflammation. This is extremely fortunate as the PCL does not readily heal itself. Had he torn the ligament significantly he’d be looking at surgery. As such, I’d expect Barney to return in fairly short order, anywhere from 2-4 weeks should be expected.

Jed Lowrie was everybody’s favorite Shortstop in April, then he stopped hitting and now he’ll stop playing. Lowrie was placed on the DL with a “right shoulder injury”, let’s all thank the Red Sox for being so specific with the diagnosis. Obviously it’s hard to predict a timeline with such a vague description, but what caught my eye was that Lowrie felt as though his shoulder had “popped out”. When your shoulder joint “pops out”, you’re dealing with either a subluxation (joint temporarily dislodges and moves back into place) or a full blown dislocation (dislodges and stays out). It’s likely not a full blown dislocation as it’s a readily apparent injury that typically requires significant trauma to occur, none of which happened here. What he likely suffered was a shoulder subluxation, which can have a number of causes and recovery times can vary. Lowrie has been dealing with a “bruised” shoulder since late May, and MRI results of his shoulder about a week ago showed only inflammation, but swelling doesn’t cause your shoulder to pop out.

Without personally examining Lowrie this is purely speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lowrie has some sort of ligamentous laxity in his shoulder joint. The original injury was a traumatic event, colliding with Hot Carl Crawford, and while no dislocations or fractures were reported, it wouldn’t surprise me if his shoulder suffered a subluxation as a result, which would cause swelling and pain in the shoulder. After a few weeks of intermittent resting and playing, his shoulder never fully recovered, and he suffered a setback this past Thursday. Shoulder subluxations create excess laxity of the ligaments holding the joint together, and each event further loosens things. It’s possible the initial injury, followed by the repeated stress of playing and the eventual setback, have combined to create an environment where Lowrie’s shoulder is not fully stable, which is obviously a problem.

The solution to this problem could be as simple as rest, strengthening exercises to better stabilize the shoulder and a gradual return to activity. Lowrie will be shut down completely for a week or two, and then the strengthening routine will begin with a progressive return to baseball activities. Should Lowrie suffer any setbacks along the way, repeat imaging will be taken to ascertain if any additional damage is done. Again, totally speculating, I see Lowrie missing 4-6 weeks as long as there’s no structural damage.

Allen Craig, all the rage lately, has been shut down with a fractured right patella (knee cap). The Cardinals are expecting anywhere from 3-6 weeks recovery time, which is fairly standard issue for bone healing in a healthy individual. It’s rather unfortunate for Craig, his injury was initially deemed a bruise and early reports had him returning by this weekend. Upon repeat examination, however, the fracture was discovered. The fortunate thing here is that his fracture is considered mild, and typically patella fractures can be nasty injuries as they are generally caused by blunt force trauma (Craig ran into an outfield wall).

The patella is actually a “floating” bone, it rests inside the quadriceps tendon (your quads are the muscles on front of your thigh). Every time you contract your quad muscles by extending the knee, your patella moves. Having a fracture complicates this. Depending on the severity, Craig will likely be placed in brace to keep the knee straight, if he bends his knee it will put a stretch on the quadriceps tendon, where the patella resides, and could complicate the healing process. How long (or if) he’s immobilized will depend on the size of the fracture and how well it heals, and the sooner the better. Immobilization will stiffen the soft tissue, and he’ll need to work that out before playing again. I agree with the Cardinals assessment of 3-6 weeks for recovery time, however I tend to err on the side of caution in these cases. Yes, the fracture could be healed by 3-4 weeks, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to play. I’d anticipate him needing closer to the full six weeks.

Just because I like to say “I told you so”, here’s 2 quick updates on Josh Johnson and Brandon Lyon. JJ was sent to the 60 day DL, the Marlins report nothing but sunshine and rainbows with Johnson, but he won’t be back for another month at the soonest. You have no choice but to wait him out, hope he returns and gives you a couple good outings so you can trade him. I’ve said it since the preseason, I don’t trust Josh Johnson. He’ll pitch like an ace when healthy, but there are too many red flags to hang your hat on him. My guess is that he’ll come back after the break, pitch well for a month or so, and his symptoms will return. Then he’ll need surgery, and you’ll need lots of tissues to wipe away the tears.

As for Brandon Lyon, he still sucks and he’s still injured. While he returned from the injury sooner than I expected, he obviously wasn’t healthy and now is back on the DL. When conservative measures don’t work, surgery is the last option, and sure enough, Lyon is meeting Dr. Yocum, the Intercontinental Champion of orthopedic surgeons (World Champion being James Andrews of course), and surgery is looking likely. You weren’t actually depending on Lyon were you? Mark Melancon just got the job for the rest of the year if he didn’t have it already.

That’s all for now, as always feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments section.

Don Brown is the resident Physical Therapist here at SoR. He takes care of all our knife wounds and shares his expertise on the injuries of the sporting world. For any further questions or comments, he can be reached at donnypump@hotmail.com

Past Injury Analysis
M.Prado, J.Morneau, J.Kubel, K.McClellan, A.Soriano, B.Belt [Prado is Dirty]
Rafael Furcal [Furcal is Injured Again? No Way]
Buster Posey, Wandy Rodriguez [Busted]
Josh Johnson [JJ Sleeps with the Fishes]
Chipper, Sizemore, Beachy, Wright and Lackey [Glass Twins]
J.Broxton, B.Lyon and D.Aardsma [Unholy Trinity]