Just last month, Jeff Luhnow traded away one player with a the injury prone tag for another. Yes, I am talking about the Jed Lowrie trade that brought back Max Stassi. The good news is that Stassi's injury history is far less involved and really only includes a shoulder problem and a minor ankle injury. That was until a supposed oblique injury right after he reported to Spring Training which turned out to be a hernia.
We're going to scratch the minor ankle injury because it didn't hold him out long and those type of injuries happen all the time. But, the shoulder problem has raised a red flag for me. When it comes to shoulders, pitchers are the main concern but catchers rank pretty close.
Stassi's shoulder problems date back to before he was drafted and played with shoulder tendinitis. Tendinitis in and of itself is not a big problem can be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs and simple modalities. The real problem is that it can progress to larger problems like tendonosis and eventually a tendon tear.
To me, the most important aspect of this type of injury is the source of the tendinitis. When it comes to the shoulder, it's most commonly from a repetitive impingement of the long head tendon of the biceps brachii or the tendon of the supraspinatis (one of the rotator cuff muscles). So, when I read he had shoulder surgery, I jumped to the conclusion of a rotator cuff tear.
Luckily, this is not the case and there was not any structural damage.
Doctors went in and shaved a part of the acromion bone away from a tendon, allowing Stassi to have full range of movement once again.
"It's kinda like a bone spur," Stassi explained. "There was no structural damage with the labrum or rotator cup, so that's a plus. Those things can be career threatening."
Well, that's very good news. What this means is that his shoulder problems were a result of constant impingement of tendons being jammed into the acromial head. Luckily, the reason is that there are three common shapes of the acromial head and some are just more prone to impinging those tissues.
There is also another cause for this type of problem which involves actual bone spurs. There's a scientific law called Wolfe's Law which basically states that bone grows where there is stress. Constant stress under the acromion process would essentially cause a lump of bone growth under the bone which would then impinge the structures.
It essentially doesn't matter the cause, but we won't really know it. Since doctors will use the example of bone spurs for both problems for simplification, it could be either one. But, what we do know is that it was shaved down to be more appropriate for Stassi's anatomy and to prevent further issues.
Now, the most recent issue is the hernia. There are few different types of hernias and they primarily just refer to the location of the problem. The actual one doesn't matter, so we can proceed without further detail. The anatomy behind the issue is that you have lining that goes between your abdominal organs and the musculature that surrounds them and there is either a tear or weakness in that lining.
There are a few functions to the lining but we'll keep to the main ones. One, is that it keeps the organs compacted into the abdomen. The second is that it has two layers with a fluid between the layers so that the musculature and organs can move separately without causing friction and thus pain. A tear or weakness in the lining allows for an organ to move out of position and protrude out of the cavity against the musculature.
Treatment is to surgically fix the lining and to take it easy as to not cause friction or not stress on the lining. But, once it heals, it will have scar tissue with is essentially less durable and potentially tear again. As for his recovery time, he tweeted that the surgery went well and he expects to be back by Opening Day. That's a reasonable time frame, but I wouldn't expect him back much earlier than that however. Catchers have to make max effort throws and that motion can easily stress a suture site, but he should definitely still factor into catcher assignments for the minor league teams.
Overall, I'm not really concerned about Stassi and his injury history. He hasn't had any reported shoulder problems since being back from his surgery and I don't expect he will. Had the procedure not done the job, he would have already had a flare up again of shoulder issues since they structures would be hitting the acromion process still. This is a much lesser concern type injury than a rotator cuff problem and thus eliminates my original red flag. The hernia has a chance to happen again but there are countless examples of hernias that heal and never have issues again. I don't expect it to be a concern moving forward.