Out for Season? Not So Fast

The Wall Street Journal—July 20, 2012

Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgeon Dr. Joshua Dines, was asked to give his expert insight on the reason why Mariano Rivera and other professional athletes are able to recover so soon after an injury and resume play in their sport. 

Dr. Joshua Dines, an orthopedic surgeon with Hospital for Special Surgery, and doctor for the U.S. Davis Cup tennis team, who is working on a textbook about baseball-specific injuries, said that some people do heal faster than others, and that athletes are likely candidates for fast healing. But there's a trade-off.

"If some people can throw faster, and jump higher, can they heal more quickly? Probably—there's certainly a different biology," Dines said. "But it's balanced out—because the grandmother who's just walking around Costco after the surgery has much lower demands. So that probably balances it out—that she doesn't have to perform at as high a level as a Brett Gardner or a Joba Chamberlain."

There are other factors, as well. Rivera did significant pre-hab work, and was found to have a less significant tear than originally expected when he went in for surgery.

Still, there is a baseline for human recovery, and following surgery, the body must heal. So even though any timetable has tremendous variability, there's always a low end. So plan for the worst.

"Six weeks to three months, sometime in that range," Dines said. "Because he can start swinging a bat at four weeks, maybe six weeks. So between two and three months is not unreasonable. But they're going to be more conservative about it, as they should. Expect the worst, hope for the best."

Read the full story at wsj.com.

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