Jeff Luhnow has been pretty active so far as our beloved Astros new GM and has already made two acquisitions that could be very beneficial to this team in Jed Lowrie and Fernando Martinez. But, while these moves have been exciting, they have still had their scrutiny as both of these former top prospects have quite the extensive injury history which has led to both of them being labeled as injury prone. CRPerry has already addressed Lowrie situation and shown that his injuries are not related and more of a history of being unlucky by contracting Mononucleosis and breaking his wrist. Fernando is a much more legitimate recipient of his injury prone label as his knee problems are reoccurring.
These situations has me considering the status of the recent injuries on the roster that could affect this team this season and beyond. So, I'm going to give a brief review of Lowrie's injury history and dig deeper into Fernando Martinez's while also taking a quick glance at Jason Castro, J.D. Martinez, Jimmy Paredes, and Brandon Lyon. In this first of a three part series, I will take a look at the infielders.
As already mentioned with Lowrie, his history is really unrelated. You can't really count his severe bout of Mononucleosis as the poor guy just kissed the wrong girl! Can't blame him right? His broken wrist came in a collision at second base while playing Pawtucket and can basically be described as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Injuries like that are freak accidents. Some will point to this and say he has fragile bones, but not necessarily. Without film of the accident, we can't really see what position his wrist was in to tell if he was in a defenseless position. However, in most collisions at second base, the wrist is in a vulnerable position, whether it's sliding head first or trying to tag a sliding runner. Even falling down after a collision leaves your wrist extremely vulnerable as your natural instinct is to extend your wrist and brace your fall and one of the most common reasons for broken wrists. But, bones heal and theoretically, they heal back stronger than before because of Wolff's Law in which bone remodel's itself in area's of increased stress (a break).
The third DL stint came from a pinched nerve after another collision with his shoulder. That's actually easy to do as well. It's actually very surprising how many nerves are in the shoulder region, just take a look at the brachial plexus. I actually had to dissect that in a cadaver lab last summer (extremely difficult). The nerves are typically pinched the bones being slightly misplaced which put some muscles on stretch causing them to put pressure on the nerves as they pass by them (pinched nerve). That's actually easily fixed with rest, massage, realignment, and physical therapy.
Now, lets take a look at Jason Castro. The dreaded torn Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL) that has people doubting just about any athlete's future has bit the Astros with Castro. Although, ACL injuries are no where near as bad as they used to be. In fact, ten years ago, it was estimated that a reconstructed ACL was ten times stronger than the original. The majority of surgeons don't even use permanent screws anymore (I have two of them from my surgery in 2002). Although, it does still make it difficult on the knees which is very worrisome for catchers. In the short term, I would expect for him to be fine as with proper physical therapy, many athletes say they can't tell a difference, me included (although it took several years since I didn't have a good therapist). Long term, I don't expect Castro to be a guy to expect to play into his late 30's as a primary backstop health wise because of his knee, but there aren't many that do.
As for his recent foot surgery, that can be attributed to his knee. This is going to get into sports psychology a bit as we are going to talk a little about subconsciously favoring another leg. It is estimated that an athlete is twice as likely to injure an unaffected limb over an affected limb. That rests heavily on the subconscious relying more heavily on the opposite leg. I've seen people all but switch which leg they deemed to be their dominant leg. They sometimes land awkwardly just to avoid landing with a lot of force on the affected leg. Over time, that creates an imbalance of stress which leads to stress related injuries. Interestingly, Castro's foot injury can be related to stress. In the short term, this could be an issue. However, having both limbs affected could balance him out, or shift to his reconstructed ACL side which is now stronger.
Some of you had read that Jimmy Paredes had sustained a minor shoulder injury in Dominican Winter League this off-season and missed a little time. Is that a concern moving forward? I don't think so. Is it something to keep in the back of your mind long term? I think so. There is a direct relationship between range of motion and stability. Your shoulder has by far, the greatest range of motion and has the least stability. Most joints have bone limiting degrees of freedom (types of movement) to just one (flexion/extension) like the knee. Ball and Socket joints (shoulder, hip) allow for more degrees of freedom but offer less stability. The shoulder is the worse as the glenoid fossa (socket) of the scapula is only centimeters deep which does not encompass humeral head (ball) It relies on the shoulder capsule (ligaments) to keep the two surfaces close and the rotator cuff (four shoulder muscles) to provide stability which is not as efficient or effective as bone. If we start to see a lot of minor shoulder injuries, we could have a real issue.