Sandoval and Zimmerman Injury Analysis

Hey guys, my rectus abdominis isn’t looking too good right now. Photo: Terren J Peterson

In the last few days we’ve heard disappointing news regarding two of fantasy baseball’s top 3B: Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval. What do these injuries mean? Will your high draft pick (Zimmerman) or favorite draft day steal (Sandoval) be back in your lineups soon, and if so, will they be as productive as you’ve come to expect from them? Well kids, I have all the answers…OK no I don’t, but I do have some highly educated guesses regarding these guys, so pay attention.

Panda Sandoval has a fracture of the hamate bone in his right wrist. What in God’s name is a hamate bone you ask? Well, if you turn the palm of your hand towards the floor and follow the ring and pinky finger bones all the way to the wrist, you’ll notice a boney bump on the pinky side. The hamate bone sits just in front of that little bump. It’s one of 8 bones in the wrist that provide stability, and the hamate in particular provides protection for a sheath containing nerves and blood vessels. This injury is not uncommon in baseball players (Domonic Brown did the same thing this spring) or any athletes who need to grip swinging implements such as bats, rackets or clubs. The severity of the injury and resulting surgical intervention depends on the location of the break, but typically the athlete returns fully functional.

Yes, you read that correctly, I expect Sandoval to make a full recovery, however the 4-6 week timetable is a bit too optimistic. Bone healing is 4-6 weeks, so his surgery and fracture site should be healed by then, but until it’s healed there won’t be any swinging of the bat or any activities that stress the area. Panda bats lefty, so this part of his right hand/wrist is placed under considerable stress as a large amount of force is transferred from the bat to the bottom hand upon impacting a fast moving hard baseball (in fact, it’s thought that this is often how guys break this bone, they have a bad swing while gripping the knob of the bat with the bottom hand and crack, there goes the hamate). Sandoval will almost certainly need a rehab assignment, so I’d expect more of a 6-8 week timetable before he’s back playing. It’s also worth noting that hand and wrist injuries are notorious for sapping a player’s power. This is usually temporary, but we need to keep in mind that this is still a surgical procedure; there will be swelling, pain, reduced range of motion and he’ll need time to desensitize the wrist to the rigors of hitting to fully trust it and have the confidence to really let it rip.

Prediction: Panda returns to the lineup in mid-June, he remains a productive option but tapers off a bit in the power categories from his pre-injury form. If you were hoping for 25-30 HR from him this year, you’ll probably get more like 15-20, with the subsequent drop in RBI. For head to head players, I would expect his power numbers to start creeping back up towards the end of the season, so he could be quite useful come playoff time. His other stats should be mostly unaffected, just hope he doesn’t spend the next 6 weeks pounding Taco Bell and cheese fries.

Ryan Zimmerman has a torn rectus abdominis (insert rectal joke here). He’s already missed time due to injury and this was seen as a setback in his recovery efforts, which is never good to hear. The rectus is the most prominent of your abdominal muscles, it provides the famed “6-pack”, or “keg” if you’re shaped like me. It’s a pretty rare injury; I’ve been practicing orthopedics for the last 6 years and have never seen a tear requiring surgical intervention. What does the rectus do? Well, in short, if you’re not laying motionless on your recliner, chances are you’re using your rectus muscles. Every breath, cough, sneeze, dump (how’s that for medical terminology) or any movement requiring your spine to bend forward will use your rectus muscles. Try getting out of your chair without contracting your abs, you can’t do it. They also provide some postural stability, meaning they will be utilized just to maintain positions such as sitting or standing, and they also provide stability for the front of your spine. That last bit is very important: without good abdominal strength, you increase the strain on your spine and back muscles, increasing the risk of injury to these areas. It’s painful and recovery can be slow. 

Estimates on Zimm’s return are 6 weeks, and I’d be stunned if he’s available to use in fantasy lineups that soon. As I mentioned in the Pablo segment, soft tissue and bone healing time is 4-6 weeks, so to say Zimmerman will be ready in 6 weeks is way too optimistic. The surgical site will need to heal, so until then he can’t put any excess stretch or strain on his abs. That means pretty much doing nothing for awhile until doctors clear him for gradual increases in activity. Any awkward movement of the trunk performed before the injury is healed could result in a setback. I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to return dates for athletes, and I’d expect a timetable closer to 8-10 weeks for Zimmerman. The biggest concern will be the lack of activity while healing will decondition other parts of his body, as he’ll likely lose some flexibility, strength and timing in the short term. Swinging a bat is a violent act, lots of stress on the torso. If he’s lost some strength or flexibility there, he could easily strain his back, ribs or other abdominal muscles, such as the famed obliques. They will need to proceed carefully in his rehab.

Prediction: Zimmerman returns to lineups following the All-Star break. If everything goes according to plan he’ll likely return in late June or early July, but my longer prediction is factoring in a slower rehab approach or even a minor setback. He’ll need a few weeks to regain his timing, but if he’s FULLY recovered he’ll be just as productive as usual. If he’s rushed back or tries to play at less than 100%, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him miss additional time with back strains, oblique strains, etc. I know you want your 2nd round pick back ASAP, but if I owned him I’d hope to see him shut down for the first half of the season so when he does return the injury is fully in the rear-view mirror. Some patience by all parties involved will be rewarded.

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
Josh Hamilton [HamBone]