What’s the deal with all of the oblique injuries?

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That’s a question we’ve asked around here a lot lately, although we’re doing it more or less rhetorically. Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times really wanted to know, so he asked Stan Conte, the Dodgers head trainer about it.  Conte researched such injuries and discovered that, no, this was not just a matter of us paying closer attention to such injuries: He found that four players had gone on the disabled list with what he calls “core” injuries — which include obliques — at this point a year ago. But 14 have this season. This represents the biggest spike in such injuries in the last 20 years.

Conte’s belief: the shorter time between the start of spring training and the beginning of spring training games this year, plus the earlier start to the regular season, due to the compressed schedule.  This is bolstered by data showing that oblique injuries are typically far more prevalent in the early part of the season and tail off as the year goes on.

Personally, I blame “Jersey Shore” and its message that men need six packs in order to fulfill the, um, Situational ideal. As a result, too much work on strengthening abs that in turn put too much stress on the surrounding muscles. Conte dismisses the notion, saying that working on ab muscles is a good thing. He thinks it’s a matter of not enough stretching and conditioning and not enough reps in the cage to get ready. Too many serious swings too fast.

Considering Conte’s experience and expertise, and considering that I just made up my explanation with no training or research whatsoever in order to shoe-horn in a cultural reference, I’m going to grudgingly admit that Conte may be right.

If there is an ALCS Game 7, Ric Flair will call out “Play Ball!”

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I don’t really care who wins the ALCS, but part of me wants to see it go seven games now. Why? Because if the Astros win tonight and force a Game 7, the series will be visited by a Rolex-wearin,’ kiss-stealin,’ wheelin-dealin,’ limousine ridin,’ jet flyin,’ son of a gun, jack! From the Chronicle:

The Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series gets to a Game 7, the Astros will have pro wrestling superstar Ric Flair call out “Play Ball!” before the game in a video message. Astros right fielder Josh Reddick is a huge wrestling fan and uses Flair’s entrance music every time he steps to the plate at Minute Maid Park. Fans also have adopted the wrestler’s “Woo!” yell throughout the season.

That’s pretty cool. It’d be even cooler if it ended with a Dusty Finish.