The Phillies recently announced that pitcher Cliff Lee is still working through the common flexor tendon tear that limited his play last season. Depending on his throwing progression, his doctors will have to decide what the next steps will be. Why is this injury such a concern for baseball players?
The common flexor tendon is on the inner side of the elbow and is the major attachment for the muscles in the forearm and wrist. It helps control movement in the hand. Injury can occur with overuse of both the muscles and the tendons. Usually conservative treatment is rehabilitation and rest, but more critical cases might need surgery.
According to Dr. Thomas Trojian of Drexel Sports Medicine, "Recovery usually is 6 to 12 weeks, but with muscle injury it could be longer," he explained. "When muscles tear, they scar easily, which can lead to more muscle injury."
"Often it depends on how bad the muscle is torn. If it is torn off the bone, then it can simply be reattached, but if the tear is closer to the hand, surgery does not do as well," he said.
When it comes to treatment and recovery, Trojian emphasized the importance of muscle retraining.
According to Justin Shaginaw of Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute, often a full kinetic chain analysis will be done. He explained that "the kinetic chain starts at the foot and goes all the way up to the hand, and any problems within the chain could affect performance."
He added, "There is a difference between recovery and full play. Velocity and control of pitch matter when it comes to whether or not a player can return to play."
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