24 July 2011

The Science of Baseball: July 24, 2011 (just SLAP tears)

Today I am only writing about SLAP tears in honor of Chorye Spoone.

Labrum Tear
Chorye Spoone was designated for assignment this past week.  He was a fringe prospect when he emerged as a potential up and comer with a solid season at Frederick in 2007.  However, after a handful of games in Bowie the following season he was diagnosed with a type II SLAP tear and had surgery to repair.  As most of us baseball folk are aware, there is a great fear of a busted labrum.  After his surgery, Spoone never returned to the promised he once showed.  That is the common result.  The hope is for a Chris Carpenter moment.  He suffered a torn labrum and underwent surgery in 2002.  To say his success is a rarity is a hyperbole full of hope.  The study highlighted today focuses on SLAP tear recovery after surgery.

Results of arthroscopic repair of type II superior labral anterior posterior lesions in overhead athletes.
BJ Neuman et al.
American Journal of Sports Medicine
In Press

In the study above, Neuman and his co-authors focused on how athletes performed in their respective sports several years after undergoing surgery for a type II SLAP tear.  The athletes were all overhand athletes ranging from baseball to javelin.  The mean follow up of these athletes was 3.5 years and athletes were put through basic and surveys to determine their satisfaction with the procedure as well as their ability to once again compete at a high level.  Although the surgery was shown to permit the injured athletes to return to their normal day to day lives, it was difficult for them to return to their elite level of throwing.  The paper reports a return of 79.5% of individuals returning to pre-injury ability for baseball and softball players.  That seems awfully high to me as I understand the data being reported.  I imagine that utilizing something other than a questionnaire would find that far fewer athletes return from this surgery as strong as they were before the injury.  We just have too many examples of ruined careers to point toward.  However, 79.5% is about the same level as has been reported in more short term studies like Ides et al 2005 (75%).

Here is my incomplete list of labrum tears and results:
Kurt Ainsworth - 2005, career ender
Alberto Arias - 2009, looks like a career ender
Jose Ascaino - 2009, does not look good
Erik Bedard - 2009, very good but cannot stay healthy
Joaquin Benoit - 2009, successful comeback somewhat
John Van Benschoten - 2005, never returned to his former level
Kris Benson - 2007, career ender
Travis Blackley - 2005, never the same level of performance though disputable
Jung Bong - 2004, career tapered off (short recovery maybe a minor labrum issue)
Boof Bonser - 2009, arguably a career ender
Bryan Bullington - 2005, never the same stuff that he had before
Chris Carpenter - 2002, success
Matt Clement - 2006, career ender
Omat Daal - 2004, arguably a career ender
Scott Elarton - 2008, career ender
Kelvim Escobar - 2008, career ender
Jeff Francis - 2009, lower peripherals but similar results (arguably having his worst season)
Travis Harper - 2007, career ender
Dirk Hayhurst - 2010, looks about the same
Matt Hensley - 2005, career ender
Luke Hudson - 2003, basically returned
Eric Hurley - 2008, arguably career ender but recent skull fracture might be more so
Casey Jannsen - 2008, came back
Steve Karsay - 2004, career ender
Brian Lawrence - 2006, career ender
Curt Leskanic - 2002, returned to normal
Dustin McGowan - 2008, starting to pitch again
Gil Meche - 2001, he came back
Joe Nelson - 2007, kind of came back
Rob Nenn - 2004, career ender
Troy Patton - 2008, not the same pitcher
Mark Prior - 2006, career ender
Luke Prokopec - 2002, career ender
Aaron Rakers - 2006, career ender
Ricardo Rincon - 2006, career ender
Jason Schmidt - 2007, career ender
Mike Sirotka - 2000, career ender
Brandon Webb - 2009, career ender
Paul Wilson - 2005, career ender

I have 39 pitchers there.  I count 10 players who have come back and provided some worth.  The return rate would be 25.6% using that population above.  That is quite different from an 80% return rate somewhat suggested in the article above.  It may be that my group above includes a large number of type III tears (complete tears).

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