Special from The Baseball Injury Report
Joe Mauer has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in the fibula in his left leg. A stress reaction is a weakening of the bone and can be a precursor to a stress fracture. The injury process typically goes from a silent stress reaction > stress reaction > stress fracture. A stress reaction of the tibia (aka tibial stress reaction) occurs most often in distance runners and is caused by overuse. The vast majority of tibia stress reactions occur in either the top 1/3 of the tibia (closer to the knee) or the bottom third toward the ankle. It can also be involved with cases of shin splints.
Stress reaction injuries to the fibula (the outside bone of the lower leg) are a lot less debilitating because the tibia (the bigger in inner bone of the lower leg) absorbs a large portion of the body’s weight. Since athletic participation on some surfaces can be the cause of the malady, one has to wonder if the hard artificial surface of the Twins home field will impact his recovery early in the season.
Because this is an overuse injury, finding the cause is important. In Mauer’s case, the repetitive nature of catching could be a contributing factor to the injury. An adjustment in his footwear and equipment may or may not be in order.
The Twins medical staff will likely take a closer look at his workout routine including weight training to determine if that contributed to his problems. They’ll also do a physical assessment to make sure he does have a physical deformity such as one leg being longer than another. The medical staff has already begun electrotherapeutic modalities (bone stimulator), NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medication) and soft tissue treatments.
If this were a stress fracture, we could expect Mauer to miss 6-8 weeks with that injury. Because it is not as serious and was caught in the stress reaction phase of the bone injury, it will be much less. Two main factors come into play here.
One is how quickly his body reacts to the stimulation treatments. If the pain lessens quickly and the follow-up MRI indicates fast healing, then Mauer could return to the lineup in 7-14 days. If however, the symptoms remain at their current level and he does not respond quickly, then we can look for Mauer to begin the season on the disabled list and miss 2-4 weeks. GM Terry Ryan made a statement on Thursday that Mauer should be “OK after a little treatment.” Further adding, “I think we’re OK.” In reality, until the medical staff can evaluate how the injury is reacting to treatment, we won’t know for sure.
Fantasy owners should use some caution in bidding on Mauer until his medical status becomes clearer. If the stress reaction becomes a stress fracture (unlikely), Mauer could miss up to six weeks. Most likely, it will be less than two weeks.