Spring Training is a time of preparing for the season and getting back into baseball shape, but that usually accompanies a host of minor injuries like muscle strains (I'm looking at El Buffalo). So far, the Astros have been fairly lucky with only Jimmy Paredes, Carlos Lee, Angel Sanchez and Wandy Rodriguez having little tweaks that have kept them out of scheduled days on the windy fields of Kissimmee.
But, we still have the injuries to Sergio Escalona and Humberto Quintero to worry about as they are still being held out of the lineups. This leads us into an injury report that will hopefully be a little more in-depth look into what these injuries are that are plaguing our beloved Astros than everything else you can find on the internet.
The catching situation is getting a lot of attention right now as there are three names battling for two catching spots on the roster. Well, two are battling for it while one watches as you just don't don the "tools of ignorance" without getting injured from time to time. Quintero is having to sit on the outside and watch as his once assumed guaranteed roster spot is possibly being taken by an ahead of scheduled Jason Castro and a currently hot hitting Chris Snyder.
So, what's keeping Q from battling it out for a roster spot? A bulging disk in spine that is causing radiating pain into his hip/upper leg. Many of you have probably experienced this before in your own spine with pain radiating somewhere in your leg, but lets explain it to those who don't know about it. Between each vertebrae in your spine, you have what is commonly called a disk which consists of fibrous rings called an annulous that surrounds a gelatinous structure called a nucleus pulposus. The nucleus pulposus is what provides the cushion between each vertebrae and allows for you to have movement in each direction while the annulous keeps it between the vertebral bodies.
Now, the annulous is a strong structure and actually gets stronger with age (under normal conditions) but with continued stress, it can have tears in it. When there are tears in the annulous, it obviously no longer can perform it's function and the nucleus pulposus can partially escape it's normal location. This is what is called a bulging/slipped disc, although a slipped disc is a terrible term. In the medical field, it is more appropriately called a herniated disc.
Depending on the location and spinal level of the herniation decides the extent and location of pain. A herniation in front of the spine is typically asymptomatic and unfortunately uncommon. The most common are the ones that Q is experiencing and what is shown in the picture above where it is to the back of the vertebral column and slightly towards one side so that it compresses a nerve as it leaves the spinal in the intervertebral foramen. Obviously, that aggravates the nerve and causes inflammation and you feel pain where ever that nerve innervates a tissue.
How do you fix it? Surgery or learn to manage it. It doesn't heal on it's own because it doesn't have a blood supply and nobody likes to have back surgery. So, we have to manage it by making it not leave the torn annulous. The nucleus pulposus goes to wear there is the least pressure on it, meaning as your spine bends forward, it moves to the back (which is where his tear is). So, for Q, he needs to keep his spine neutral or extended, which is probably no problem since he has a little bit of a belly and the majority of people have their hips rotated forward which extends the spine. The problem for Q is that he's a catcher and has to squat constantly which flexes the spine. Q is going to have to learn to keep his erector spinae muscles a little tighter during his catchers stance and keep his back flat and allow his spine to roll over. It's manageable, but don't be surprised if he struggles to manage it and periodically aggravates his back.
With Escalona, we have a bit of a head scratcher of an injury. A hyper extended elbow isn't exactly common as you have a very hard endpoint for the range of motion as the olecranon process enters the the olecranon fossa and prevents further movement. What this means is that every body has a permanent end point for elbow extension that only has variations if there are tight muscles that flex the elbow. Typically, if there is hyper extension, it's because the joint is hyper mobile, and in this case it likely means that Escalona has a very deep olecranon fossa which really means nothing to the long term aspect of this injury. My guess is that he just stretched some structures on the front side of the arm because he is hyper mobile at the elbow and that he did a little too much too quickly. Escalona shouldn't have any long term effects from this injury and should be back fairly soon.
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