Between the long-standing curses (c’mon, Cubs!) and the rivalries, being a baseball fan is hard. Add in the fact that the MLB has the longest season of any professional sports team and you’ve got a recipe for an angst-filled postseason for any devoted baseball fan.
By the time October rolls around, it’s not just fans that are showing signs of wear and tear from a grueling season. It’s a pretty sure bet that most players are nursing some kind of nagging injury. That’s why a fleet of hawk-eyed athletic trainers are watching each player for the smallest signs that something is off. Some pundits even believe that the team that is fighting the fewest injuries at the end of the season is in the best position to win the playoffs.
You’ve probably heard of the most-common baseball injuries – at least the kind that don’t involve getting beaned by a fastball or sliding into a base – such as shoulder separation and instability, rotator cuff maladies and elbow ligament tears that require Tommy John surgery.
But sometimes, whether due to a Billy Goat curse or simply bad luck, there are a handful of more uncommon injuries that can plague players, particularly this late in the season. To gear up for the first Cubs NLCS home game in 12 years, Science Life asked Megan Conti Mica, MD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and an expert in upper extremities, to weigh in on some of the more unusual kinds of baseball injuries we hope won’t befall Cubs players at an inopportune time as they try and break the 107-year drought.
The hamate is the bone in the base of your palm and the hook is the boney protrusion that looks, well, like a hook. Particularly prone to fracture, this injury is typically cased by the by the impact of a baseball bat as it hits the lead batting hand, or sometimes even from a direct blow to the bone. (Editor’s note: OWW.) These fractures are particularly hard to diagnose and if doctors miss them, they won’t heal and can even cause a chain reaction of problems when nearby tendons rupture from rubbing on the fracture site.
This is a hand injury that develops after repetitive trauma to the hypothenar region, the pad of soft tissue on the hand below the pinky finger. When arteries in the hand are damaged, for instance by repeatedly catching a ball or striking a bat with a whole lot of force, they can create clots or event an aneurysm in the ulnar artery. This can cause pain and a loss of blood flow to the fingers and even ulcers. If a player uses tobacco, the problem can become even worse, because smoking and chewing tobacco is known to impact arteries and veins.