September 2011

Out on a limb: Jock talk

Jordana Bieze Foster, Editor

Much of sports talk radio is essentially a forum for negativity. Even in Boston, where sports fans have been ridiculously spoiled by local teams’ successes in the last decade, talk show hosts and callers spend hours bemoaning athletes’ failures and second-guessing coaches’ decisions. But on a weekday morning in early September, a conversation about ankle injuries on sports talk radio actually left me feeling surprisingly optimistic.

The news that inspired this conversation wasn’t good. Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett had sprained an ankle, and although imaging tests had ruled out any fractures or ligament damage, his status was uncertain. Remember, this was in early September, with the playoffs right around the corner. So the question of the week was whether Beckett would be able to return for the playoffs and, if so, whether the injury would have lasting effects on his performance.

Appropriately enough, one of Boston’s sports talk radio shows had enlisted former Sox pitcher Curt Schilling to provide some perspective on Beckett’s injury and its potential ramifications. Schilling, you might recall, is just a little famous in these parts for having battled a lower extremity injury of his own in 2004 while leading the Sox to their first World Series victory in 86 years.

I was sure the interview would be all about mental toughness, how great players do whatever it takes to win, that sort of thing. Instead, what I heard was Schilling sounding for all the world like
a biomechanist:

There’s this thing called the kinetic chain, which is the transference of power through your motion, whether it be a hitting motion or a pitching motion.  It starts at the tip of my right toe and ends at the tip of my pointy finger on my throwing hand.  Any problem with any joint in that sequence means that there is less power getting to the top. 

When I was hurt in ’04, I alleviated the pain by putting more force, more effort into other parts of my delivery to make up for the lost power. Which, over a game or two games may be manageable, but you could suffer catastrophic injuries by doing that because of the amount of force involved in those actions. You could tear an oblique, or blow a shoulder out, if you’re overcompensating to a significant degree.

I was floored.

The biomechanical significance of the lower extremities in pitching is something that even sports medicine researchers are only just starting to wrap their heads around. But Schilling gets it, and that means other major league pitchers probably do too, even if they may not be able to articulate it as well.

If that’s the case, I have to believe this information will continue to find its way to the mainstream media. And just maybe the same information will also find its way to the managers, parents, and athletes—especially young athletes—who have the most to benefit from closure of the ubiquitous knowledge gap between the havers of medical information and the have-nots.

If only I felt as optimistic about Beckett’s prospects for the postseason.


One Response to Out on a limb: Jock talk

  1. Hi Jordana – excellent point- a trail I’ve been blazing on ” the sports doctor” for many years. Good solid biomechanics based on ” the foot affects everything above”. Sounds like things we talked about on the 8/4/11 show you guested on! Would be great if you let your readers mow about “the sports doctor” available at radio shows. Not all sports talk is the endless negative blabber that is “the norm”. Regards… Dr. Bob Weil

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