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Monday, July 23, 2012
Desmond likely out a month with oblique injury

Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond tried valiantly to play through the oblique injury he suffered over a month ago and was, arguably, effective in the presence of the ailment. Even after the brief respite provided by the All-Star break (Desmond opted not to participate despite being selected), it seemed that while he continued to deliver offensively, the injury simply was not improving.

Last week, Desmond was given a rare day off to rest after he acknowledged cutting short a swing due to pain. The natural concern from a health standpoint when a hitter starts making these adjustments midswing is that he runs the risk of further injury, potentially to an entirely different area.

Ian Desmond
Ian Desmond lands on the DL as the top shortstop on the Player Rater this season.

When the Nationals played a doubleheader Saturday, it seemed to exhaust what was left in the tank for Desmond, as the discomfort persisted. An MRI on Sunday confirmed a tear in his left oblique, and the decision to place Desmond on the DL was automatic.

Several times this year, I have cited the article "Abdominal Muscle Strains in Professional Baseball" (published in the March 2012 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine) with regards to average length of DL time for abdominal injuries, but it seems to bear repeating here, particularly in light of Desmond's recent MRI results. The average DL stay for position players suffering an abdominal injury such as this one is 26.7 days (slightly lower than the 35.4 days for pitchers).

As is often the case with a right-handed batter, Desmond's oblique injury is on the left side, and the pain is uniquely sharp when swinging a bat at full speed, a motion that is hard to simulate or reproduce outside of that specific function. This is one of the things that makes evaluating recovery so challenging; a hitter will often feel he can do everything without pain until he attempts a full-speed swing and feels the familiar grab in his side.

Desmond will not pick up a bat for at least two weeks, at which point he will be re-evaluated. While he has been receiving treatment all along and is hopeful he can return more quickly than teammate Mark DeRosa, who missed six weeks with a similar problem, Desmond has not yet received the one key ingredient so important to full recovery: rest. In other words, although the injury has been present for some time and he has been receiving treatment, the real recovery clock starts now. While it may not be six weeks, and it may not even be 27 days, until he rejoins his team, expect Desmond's absence to steer closer to a month than 15 days.