Mets third baseman David Wright missed four months last season due to spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that compresses and inflames the nerves. The phrase “touched a nerve?” How about “bone literally digging into nerves.” It causes sharp pain in the lower back and can be utterly debilitating. Not just a thing that keeps you from playing baseball well, but something which prevents you from simply functioning.
I have a passing familiarity with it because my father has dealt with it. He’s 72 and doesn’t try to swing baseball bats, sprint to outrun throws or field hot shots at third base. If it’s keeping a generally healthy person like my dad from getting out of a chair, imagine the impact it has on a person who has to push his body to extremes simply to do his job like David Wright does.
Yet Wright has come back from it. Indeed, after returning last year he excelled, hitting nearly as well as his career norms in 38 regular season games. How did he do it?
With a punishing rehabilitation regime, as detailed in Men’s Fitness. It takes hours of work every day just to get him in condition to do the baseball work every other player has to do. And it takes additional work before that to get into condition to do the bulk of the conditioning work. Stenosis is a condition that has caused many other athletes, some of which are interviewed in the article, to retire. Even if one doesn’t want to retire from it directly, the work required for Wright to be at his best despite the condition is enough to make many athletes blink and wonder whether it’s truly worth it.
Wright perseveres. He will deal with the pain in his back for the rest of his life. For the next few years he’ll deal with it and with baseball. No easy trick.