Drs. Hay and Soppe asked about the Tigers’ star players’ injuries and likely return to action.
In a span of 24 hours, the Detroit Tigers officially lost their two best players — one pitcher and one hitter — to the injured list, and those two players might not return in the near future. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, the ace of the pitching staff, suffered a ruptured pulley in his left index finger. Center fielder Riley Greene, the rising star and future of the franchise, suffered a stress fracture in his left fibula. The information and emotions are fresh, and while the Tigers will certainly lose Rodriguez for more than 15 days and Greene for more than 10 days, manager A.J. Hinch isn’t ready to speculate about the severity of the injuries.
The Free Press talked to two doctors about the injuries to Rodriguez and Greene. The doctors — both orthopedic surgeons at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles with experience treating professional athletes — shared insight into the injuries and the likely timetables to get back on the field
Excerpts from the interviews –
The A4 pulley — which ruptured in Rodriguez’s finger — is one of five pulleys in an individual finger, located between the top two knuckles. The A1 pulley is closest to the palm and the A5 pulley is closest to the fingertip. “The injury occurs when so much force is created at the tip
of the finger,” said Dr. David Hay, a hand surgery consultant for the Anaheim Ducks (NHL). “Imagine if you were trying to do a pull-up on a doorframe, like a little tiny ledge, you create so much force that the tension in the rope — the tendon — tears away through the tunnel that’s trying to keep it against the finger…. It tends to be an instantaneous thing.”
A pitcher can’t grip a baseball with their fingertip without an intact A4 pulley. “The tunnels have to be there,” said Hay, “because if you didn’t have the tunnels there, if you bent your finger, then the tendon from the tip of the finger would make a straight line to the palm of the hand like a bowstring. “You need at least a couple weeks of rest, and then taping it for another two to four weeks,” Hay said, “and then somewhere between six to eight weeks, you’re doing some type of light toss to get some progression back. The average return on this small handful of baseball players is the 10- week mark. It’s somewhere between eight and 12 weeks, where you’re ramping up the throwing to where you feel like you can really throw, but it’s probably three months until you feel like you’re past it.
In the case of Greene, he will be seeking a second opinion.
“An MRI will show swelling in the bone,” said Dr. Clint Soppe, an orthopedic consultant for the LA Galaxy (MLS). “That swelling in the bone, it’s not specific for a certain problem. If somebody has a bone bruise, like if they hit their bone against a wall or against another player, they can get swelling in the bone just like other tissues swell. That can actually look the same on an MRI as a stress fracture. For me, whether or not it’s a stress fracture is my first question.”
“It looked like he hit the left leg initially,” Soppe said, reviewing Sunday’s catch. “A bone bruise, like the collision with the wall or some other type of acute stress to the bone that didn’t cause a fracture but caused swelling or bruising, that can heal much quicker (one to three weeks). If it’s a
stress fracture, it could be more like six weeks.”
“Every stress fracture is different,” Soppe said. “The best sign is pain. If he’s having pain while running, you’d want to shut him down from running for at least a few weeks, and then gradually get him back. If he’s not having pain, you could continue to progress and advance him with activity.”