Saturday, September 23, 2006

NIH: And now we know

Offical word is that Nick Johnson suffered a fractured right femur, and will undergo a surgical repair this evening in New York.

Just to pass along a little general knowledge, the femur is the longest bone in the human body. Also called the thigh bone, it run from the hip down to the knee. The surgery is necessary to reconstruct the bone right away, otherwise the thigh muscle can have a tendency to pull the fragmented bone sections so that they overlap and knit incorrectly. If this happens, it can cause a life long disability. Don't get too concerned, however, as the type of surgial procedure he is having tonight will likely result in a full, but slow, recovery. "Slow" here being defined as three to six months. Thus, if Johnson takes any bad turns in his recovery process, he could actually still be out with the injury in Spring Training or even the start of the season.

NIH: What I'm Finding on NJ

The news is still kind of sketchy. The following things I know for sure.

  • There was an on-field run-in between Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns during the Saturday game against the Mets.

  • According to the write-up: "Vidro's first reaction after the crash was to cover his ears, having heard a crack or pop in the collision, followed by Johnson's screams of anguish." (emphasis mine)

  • ibid: "He's hurt pretty bad," manager Frank Robinson said. "Nick's not going to stay down if he's not hurt that badly. When he wasn't moving, we knew he was hurt pretty bad."

  • NJ was taken to the hospital. No specific injury is being confirmed by the Nationals.

  • Seattle PI is headlining their article with the phrase "breaks leg" and are specifically calling it a broken leg.

At this point, only conjecture can be made. Seattle, Washington is hardly where I would expect the first confirmations to be coming out of, so I can only assume that they are working off of many of the same ruors and conjectures that anyone is working with right now. However, just because I don't believe Seattle would be where confirmation could come out of doesn't mean I don't think it will ultimately be the truth. Of course, even if so, the question is what broke and how seriously. His season is done. Let's hope his career isn't.

NIH: The Crash

Unfortunately, I had already given up on today's game when the big collission between Kearns and Johnson happened. Thus, I'm initialy relying on a description of the event that misschatter gave in the Gameday chat.

Wright hit a popup to shallow right field. Kearns and Johnson dove for it at the same time, both of them falling. Johnson’s right leg was bent as he went down and Kearns fell on top of him. Vidro went after the ball and started jumping up and down motioning for help immediately.

Johnson rolled over onto his belly and punched the ground in obvious pain. They came out and rolled him onto a stretcher and carted him off the field after splinting his right leg in the position it was in.

Kearns was so upset he came out of the game (looked like he was crying)

Some of the initial indications given was that Johnson's leg looked broken. Unfortunately there is nothing that is being officially being reported anywhere, but I've got nothing better to do than troll the news until I find something more official about the conditions of Kearns and Johnson.

UPDATE: is carrying the story, but so far has very little additional information than misschatter's take on the situation.

Friday, September 15, 2006

NIH: What is Tommy John?

When working the injury beat, it's kind of nice not to have anything to report about, especially with the injurific season that the Nationals have been having. However, it's been awhile since I've updated the NIH, so I thought I'd do the next in an on going series of articles where I get to the bottom of common injury terms.

Today, I'll be looking at Tommy John surgery.

The first important question that popped into my mind when I learned about this procedure is who, exactly, is Tommy John, and why does the surgery get named after him? It's a long medical tradition that diseases and procedures often get named after the person or group who go first. Thus it is that we have diseases named after the tragic Lou Gherig, a group of Legionaires who were having a convention in Philly, and who can forget Maxwell Necrotizing Fasciitis? In much this same tradition, Tommy John was the first pitcher who reaped the benefit of the surgery that has become almost a right of passage in modern badeball.

Tommy John, in short, is the winningest pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. His career ERA is under 4.00. He won 57 more games than he lost over his career. His career strikeout total is well north of 2000. But what he will always be famous for was when he told a surgeon to "make something up" in 1974 when he damaged his ulnar collateral ligament, an injury that, at the time, was viewed as career ending.

The surgeon he said this to was one Dr. Frank Jobe. Dr. Jobe was a graduate Loma Linda University Medical School and did his residency (and later specialized in) orthopaedics. And what he eventually made up was a revolutionary procedure that involved replacing the damanged ligament with a tendon from elsewhere in the body, usually in the forearm or the leg (in John's case it was the forearm, though an urban legend says it was from a cadaver).

Tommy John returned to the Dodgers 18 months later, pitched for 13 more years, and 164 of his 288 career wins came with a transplanted tendon in his arm. That surgery took four hours to perform. Now the process has been stramlined so that the surgery takes only about an hour, leaves nothing more lasting than a scar, and can get players back on the diamond sooner.

And, some claim, better than ever. It's always been one of those stories about Tommy John surgery that players come back better than ever, throwing harder and getting better motion on the ball. To the point that some people have even considered elective Tommy John. Of course, this is a bit of a myth. The surgery isn't magic, no medicine is. And there isn't a 100% recovery rate. Just because you get Tommy John doesn't mean you'll play again. Also, many believe that what is the real benefit is not the surgery itself but the long recovery process, and the work that is gone through on the arm after the stitches are put in, taken out, and only a scar is left behind.

It's not, to put it simply, the surgery, but the conditioning.

Still, it has meant that pitchers can have much longer careers than they once did. Heck, it even means that a diagnosis of a torn UCL can be a sigh of relief, since there is such a well established procedure for replacement of the ligament.

And there you have it. The $2 tour of the history and procedure of Tommy John Surgery.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

NIH: Injury of monumental importance

Dan Steinberg has a huge scoop in his new bog (which, if you're not reading, you should). A few months after Teddy Roosevelt went down with a sprained ankle, injuries have once again hit the Racing Rushmores as George Washington took a hard tumble during the President Race at today's day game against the Cardinals. He was able to get up and finish the race, but no word yet to how this will affect his ability to race. He has a week to recover, with the Nationals heading out west to play the Rockies and Diamondbacks, but until we know the extent of the injury there's no saying when he'll be up and racing again.

Early speculation is that Grover Cleveland might get a call up if Washington has to go on the DL. Cleveland has apparently been tearing it up with the Zephyrs during their Minor President Race, and recently won on two non-consecutive nights.

Friday, September 01, 2006

NIH: The New Kid

Most Nats fans have probably woken up this morning to see the news that Anderson and Ward were both traded for pitching prospects. And yes, it's already time to be writing an NIH post about the kids.

The pitcher we got for Anderson is just fine.

The guy we got for Ward, though, is one Luis Atilano. The kid's history: he was a first round draft pick in 2003 (mid-20s overall pick), and has been working his way through the Braves minor league clubs, going one level a year. '03 saw him in GCl, '04 in a short season A, '05 with the A level Sally League, and '06 with the Advanced-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. (Trivia: The Pelicans are the only Atlanta affiliate not named the Braves. Good for them.)

However, his season ended short this year thanks to Tommy John surgery. He went under the knife on August 10th, which means that his 2006 is over, as is his 2007. He'll be reporting to the Nationals minor leagues no sooner than 2008, though with an arm that should be stronger (common misconception is that Tommy John makes your arm stronger, when in reality it's the recovery regimine that does it). Probably the soonest he'll compete for a rotation spot would be 2009, but more realisitically 2010 or 2011.