Thursday, June 21, 2018

Michael Wacha Strains His Oblique Muscle: What Does That Mean?

Oblique muscle strains have reared their ugly head for the St. Louis Cardinals again. This time it isMichael Wacha in the midst of maybe his best season. He is expected to miss a month, but that may be optimistic. Why are these such significant injuries for some sports and playing positions while you never hear about them in other sports?

The oblique muscles reside on both sides of the abdomen and chest running from the pelvis to the chest and ribs in the front and chest and spine in the back. There are 2 muscle groups on each side the internal and external obliques. Rather than running straight vertically or horizontally they run “obliquely” across the body and thus their name.

These muscles are critical for rotational activities and that is why they are more impactful for certain sports. While challenging for any athlete an oblique muscle strain is the worst for those athletes that repetitively rotate. Thus baseball pitchers and hitters are highly affected. Hockey players are also bothered by it while shooting especially during slap shots. We have had several over the years that resulted in several games lost. It much less frequently affects sports that are more linear such as track, swimming football or basketball. It is an infrequent injury even for quarterbacks and I can’t remember a significant oblique injury with loss of time for any of the Rams quarterbacks.

Treatment is similar to other muscle strains and involves conservative management with ice, NSAIDs and rehabilitation including stretching and strengthening. Nothing seems to shorten the recovery which for baseball position players is typically a month. If anything more than a minor strain for a pitcher it can cost 6-8 weeks. Cortisone injections can be utilized, but still time is the best ally and cortisone is relatively a quick fix. These muscle strains typically are diffuse over a relatively large area and thus difficult to pinpoint for an injection. Likewise there is no scientific evidence that platelet rich plasma (PRP) or stem cell injections will speed recovery. That is why these are difficult injuries for the athletes and the fans that follow them. It is hard to be patient.

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