Is it a chronic injury or simply diminishing skills that have gotten the better of Nick Swisher and Tiger Woods lately? It’s difficult to say for sure, but there’s definitely an overlap between the 2.
Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic. We also discussed the reasons why 75 to 80 percent of injuries occur in the season’s first 3 weeks and then drop off significantly from there.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Aug. 13, 2014.
HORNER: Joining us live is our good friend, Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Joe, looks like Nick Swisher (of the Cleveland Indians) is gonna get some opinions on whether to shut it down or not. Tiger Woods’ still having these back problems.
When do these injuries really start to be more chronic and really take these guys out of their games?
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, you know, Ray, you and I both — it’s part of what we do for our jobs, but also as fans — kinda keep an eye on this, and we’ve talked about this in the past. Probably the 2 most obvious examples right now in Cleveland sports, uh, national sports, are Nick Swisher and Tiger Woods.
The real issue is chronic injuries, injuries that have been going on for more than a month, [and] how they affect performance. So, we really have trouble telling how much is just diminishing skills — I hate to use that terminology. Oh my gosh, the Bernie Kosar days. [Are these athletes] just on the downside of their career, [or is it] the issue of chronic injuries?
So, we know that Swisher is going on the DL for the second time, and it may be for the remainder of the year. We know that Tiger has had knee, and then elbow and then back problems in the last few years, and it’s starting to head down that chronic injury [path].
How much of the performance that we see is affected by injury? It’s hard to tell. Particularly in those 2 cases, I haven’t seen those athletes, so knowing that is very difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to get a sense of that.
Even one step further, even young players that you bring in and draft like, going back in our history, Courtney Brown, uh Tim Couch (former Browns players), Danny Ferry (former Cavs player), had chronic injuries that they had at the time they came on and never reached their peak, or were called really busts in the draft. How much of that was the affect of chronic injury on performance?
And then, taking it one step further, definitely I see this even in youth sports quite a bit. This would be the time that I would see that a lot, Ray. I think I’ve mentioned to you before, 75 to 80 percent of injuries in fall sports — soccer, football — will occur in the first 3 weeks of the season. After that, the injury rate goes down significantly.
The reason for that is a lot of kids have leftover problems from the summer or the spring where they had a hamstring or a knee problem or a shoulder injury. They thought that by the time they got to the season that it would be better, and immediately under the rigors of the beginning of the season, those things become unmasked and [the kids] begin having more significant problems.
And, rather than dealing with them — as we try to tell athletes that have these problems, deal with them at the time, rehabilitate them at the time — they try to play through them and they get into more problems [because] as soon as the season starts, these things are unmasked.
So, it’s difficult to give a direct answer, but there’s no question there’s overlap between chronic injuries and decreasing performance.
HORNER: Alright, Joe. Thank you very much for the insight. Catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah. Looking forward to seeing you very soon out on the field around town in Akron, Ohio.
HORNER: [laughter] You got it. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, with us.