During his first season in the big leagues in 1998, the strong, young kid with the monster fastball noticed a nagging pain in his right elbow. He thought it would go away but it didn't. He played in pain through the remainder of the season. In the spring of 1999, he tore a ligament in his right elbow and had a Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 1999 season spending much of it in rehab for his elbow.
After playing the first part of 2000 in the minor leagues, the Chicago Cubs added him to the roster in May. His debut with Cubs was promising but a new warning sign appeared: right shoulder pain. He was out for a month with a diagnosis of tendinitis and followed this with a triceps strain. He was on and off the disabled list about as often as Paris Hilton buys a new purse. In August 2005, he was headed for yet another surgery, this time on his right shoulder. He then spent several months in rehab.
Following the surgery, Kerry Wood spent four months in rehab for his shoulder to prepare for the 2006 season. Then, in March of 2006, he had a "minor" arthroscopic procedure - a "cleaning up of his meniscus" - on his right knee. He made it back to the mound May 18, 2006.
By early July 2006, it appeared that Kerry Wood's career as a professional baseball pitcher might be over. The Chicago Cub's once promising star pitcher tore the infraspinatus muscle, one of the rotator cuff muscles in the right shoulder. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Wood will go through more rehab and is debating about surgery. Again.
Do you see a trend? Is there somthing missing in his repeated bouts of rehab or is Kerry just an extremely unlucky guy?
If Kerry attempts a come back, he has a lot of work ahead of him. The obvious problems are in his shoulder but slinking around in the shadows is his right knee. His "minor" surgery in March was on one of the primary stabilizers of the knee - the meniscus - a crescent-moon
shaped piece of cartilage tacked onto the top of your shin bone, the tibia. The meniscus helps absorb shock in the knee and keeps the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) from moving too much especially during a twisting action like baseball pitching.
Baseball pitchers need rock solid legs. It's where all the power comes from and when you don't have it in the legs, you steal it from the shoulder. Small changes in stability of the knee, like what happens when a portion of the meniscus is removed, rarely cause problems at low speeds and forces like tossing a baseball to your son in the back yard or even a slow jog around the neighborhood. But, pitching requires a lot of force over a short period of time. You need all you can get from your legs.
On the outer rim of the meniscus is a small bed of nerves. These nerves are now thought to play an important role in telling your brain how to coordinate muscles during complex tasks like pitching. Signals from the ankle, knee, and hip converge in the brain influencing how and when the various muscles contract. Think of a conference call with people giving their opinion of what you should do and imagine that you could actually listen and analyze everyone at once. This is what your brain does. It's listening to the advice from the joints. When a part of the meniscus is removed, some of the nerves may be damaged or removed as well. It's like someone hung up on your conference call. You don't have all the advice you need so, your brain does the best that it can. In most cases, the shoulder or elbow works harder to generate more force. The harder you try to throw with your arm, the easier it is to hurt your arm. This leads to periodic shoulder or elbow injuries. Anytime you have a repeated injury of the shoulder, you will usually find an unresolved problem in the hip, knee or ankle.
We are a society that likes to compartmentalize, reduce, isolate problems and then fix them. If you have shoulder pain, you see a shoulder specialist, maybe have shoulder surgery, go through shoulder rehab and move on. But, unfortunately, that's not how the body works. Your shoulder needs the "advice" of your hip, knee and ankle; your lower back depends on your butt muscles; your knee needs your ankle; your neck thrives from your upper back. You know the old song, Dem Dry Bones - "the ankle bone's connected to the knee bone, the knee bone's connected to the thigh bone...."? It's true. The body's joints and muscles work together. When it comes to rehab, joints and muscles that work together, win together.
If you're struggling with persistent shoulder pain and recurring injuries, like Kerry Wood is, make sure you have any nagging hip, knee or ankle problem addressed as part of your shoulder rehab. It could be the one thing that truly "fixes" your shoulder.
Make today count.
PS - For those of you with shoulder pain, check out our next free seminar, Shoulder Pain: Why it Still Hurts to Throw, Swim, or Serve. Seating is limited - call 512-206-0433 to reserve your spot.