Recent media reports have stated that Bobby Jenks, Boston Red Sox Pitcher, is recovering after undergoing back surgery on December 12, 2011. In September, Jenks reported that he was suffering from two calcified bone growths that were subsequently pinching a nerve in his spine causing significant pain.1 Any additional information, including the level of affected spine and surgery specifics are unknown.
We did not treat Mr. Jenks and we cannot confirm the exact nature of his condition which led to his surgery. However, the information available to the public presents a picture seemingly similar to that of bone spurs, a common condition.
Degeneration of the spine is a natural process. Much like our bones our vertebral discs change with age. These discs, like your body, are composed of water. Over time, the amount of water decreases with normal wear and tear. As the disc changes the surrounding ligaments and muscle must also change in order to maintain spinal stability. These structures thicken and can potentially calcify producing bone spurs. Genetics, nutrition, and trauma; including sports injuries -are components that have the propensity to speed up this process. This diagnosis is not a finite indicator for symptoms; not everyone will experience pain.2 Common treatments for this condition include pain medicine, physical therapy, and surgical solutions.
Every morning men and women alike happily scan the sports pages of their favorite newspaper. Sports reports often flooded with news of player injuries. Research has been gaining momentum amongst professional athletics. The number of studies investigating specific types of injuries and recovery rates are seemingly growing. However, little research involving specific spine injuries in Major League Baseball is available.
Analyses of injuries resulting during play have for the most part been derived from team specific disabled lists. One such analysis showed that an injury to a baseball pitcher, more often than not, were to the shoulder or elbow, less than 18% of injuries were spine/core related.3
Clinical practice has taught us that certain pastimes may place us at an increased risk for injuries. Make no mistake though that everyone has the potential for a spine injury. From the major league to little league no one is an exception. Back safety is always a home run.
1. Silver, M. (2011, September 18). Amid a Painful Year Jenks Tries to Keep Healthy Outlook. Retrieved December 2011, from BostonHerald.com
2. Patel, C., & Truumees, E.(2011). Spinal Stenosis: Pathophysiology, Clinical Diagnosis, and Differential Diagnosis. In H. Herkowitz, S. Garfin, F. Eismont, G. Bell, R. Balderston, & 6 (Ed.), Rothman-Simeone THE SPINE (Vol. 2, pp. 1064-1077). United States: Elsevier Saunders.
3. Posner, M., Cameron, K., Moriatis Wolf, J., Belmont, P., & Owens, B. (2011). Epidemiology of Major League baseball Injuries. The American journal of Sports Medicine , 39 (8), 1676-1680.