Red Sox lefty pitcher David Price has been showing progress in his recovery from a left elbow injury. If you want to learn more about elbow injuries in pitchers, specifically possibilities for Price, read my earlier post here. Price made the trip to the NFL Combine two weeks ago to get opinions from medical experts and was reportedly given good news – no surgery or injection needed, just some rest and elbow treatments. He has thrown into a batting cage net for the past few days and says today that he “feels good.”So everything is great, right??
Reports on Price’s injury, while somewhat nebulous, seemed to say that he had a “forearm strain.” In a pitcher, this would mean a strain in the wrist flexor/pronator complex. These muscles are extremely important in creating a powerful “wrist flick” which contributes to pitch velocity. The wrist flexor muscles and attachment are surprisingly localized in the elbow (patients understandably look at me like I’m crazy when I immobilize their wrist to treat their elbow pain but this is why). A flexor/pronator strain would be treated with rest and elbow therapy. I was cautiously optimistic after hearing initial reports of a flexor strain for Price. Unfortunately that changed a bit after Price’s comments today.
One statement in particular tells me that Price is likely not dealing with a simple muscle strain in his throwing arm. Evan Drellich reported earlier today that Price said the doctors told him” if I was 22 or 23 they’d have told me to go have surgery.” Surgery is generally not something that would be considered for a forearm strain in a pitcher. Occasionally if a pitcher has a tear near the attachment of his flexor/pronator complex surgery is considered to reduce scarring and improve healing. Price says that his elbow pain is something he deals with every Spring. “I’ve gone through this. This is something I feel like happens every spring training. It’s those first four to five weeks of spring training that I feel like I go through this every single year, and this year was just a little bit worse. You know, my arm got a little bit more stiff, and that’s why we took the precautionary actions that we took.”
It’s possible that Price has been dealing with a flexor pronator mass tear for years and that it acts up in Spring training and has proven itself to heal in time for the season. That could be why his elbow was described by the surgeons as “unique” during his visit to the Combine. If he has shown that the elbow recovers on its own every season then that may be why they did not recommend surgery in him, but might have recommended it in a 22 or 23 year old.
It’s also possible that there is damage to Price’s ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). If he does have a significant UCL injury he will likely require surgery at some point. As a side note, I think it’s great that a reporter directly asked the pitcher how his “UCL” was feeling. His answer? “Feels good to me.”
Price seemed to have a very positive outlook on his elbow injury. While he does not plan to rush it, he anticipates that he will make a full recovery. While I am trying hard to remain optimistic, after today’s comments, I am feeling more cautious. Only time will tell how well his elbow recovers and whether or not it can hold up for a long MLB season.
One more thing, David Price – I’m not buying the “oh I don’t know what the doctors were talking about – they used such big medical words” bit. Your arm is your livelihood. There are 3 things in that part of your elbow. I know the name of more than 3 parts under the hood of my car and my car hasn’t won me any awards. I understand that you don’t want to get into injury details and have appreciated your candor. But please, don’t insult your fans by implying that your doctors didn’t explain your throwing arm injury to you. If you simply “tuned out” because you were so happy to hear that you don’t need surgery please do me a favor and give Dr. Andrews or Dr. ElAttrache a call – I’m sure that they want you to understand exactly what is going on.