Ortiz, Smoltz updates

Updated: June 8, 2008, 10:04 PM ET
By Stephania Bell

I performed a little experiment about 10 days ago. I went on the DL myself, suffering with a miserable spring cold, the one you feel like you shouldn't have when it's 80 degrees and sunny outside. I followed up my DL stint with a week's vacation, my first real vacation in two years. I thought maybe the injuries would decide to vacation simultaneously. Wrong. I came back to learn that Big Papi and The Big Hurt were ailing, that John Smoltz was hovering somewhere between season-ending and career-ending surgery and that hamstring injuries continue to plague the league. So today I officially return to the lineup and try to make sense of some of what has happened in such a seemingly short time.

David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: Ortiz tore the extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendon sheath in his left hand on what otherwise appeared to be a normal swing on May 31. The ECU is a forearm muscle that extends (extensor) the wrist (carpi) and ulnarly deviates the hand (bends the hand towards the pinky side) as a result of its attachment on the ulna, the forearm bone on the pinky side, hence the name ulnaris. The tendon is the component that attaches the muscle to the bone and transfers the force of the muscle contraction to the bone resulting in motion. The tendon is encased in a sheath, and this tissue is what Ortiz actually injured, which is a far better scenario than tearing the tendon itself. The current problem for Ortiz is that he is experiencing a painful clicking in the wrist as the tendon slips without the protective sheath intact. I spoke with Dr. Kate Gray, an orthopedic hand surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, Calif., who completed her hand fellowship training at the prestigious Hand Center of San Antonio where the textbook on hand surgery is written. Gray, who says that this injury is more commonly seen in tennis players (which makes sense if you look at how they grip the racket), adds that treatment for this condition is most often non-surgical, and usually the tissue is able to heal with a period of immobilization. A recent Boston Herald report supports this concept and the Red Sox are collaborating with Dr. Thomas Graham, who expresses great confidence that Ortiz can have an excellent non-surgical recovery. Graham relates Ortiz's case to that of the Philadelphia Phillies' Pat Burrell, who sustained a similar injury in 2004. Burrell was able to return successfully without surgery (Graham's recommendation) after one month.