Elbows Like Icicles - What Matt Harvey Tells Us About Handling Our Pirates Pitchers

We now know that Matt Harvey's partial UCL tear is for certain after his MRI results have been released - we do not yet know, and won't until a period of reduced swelling and re-imaging, whether he will join teammate Jeremy Hefner in going under the knife (he, too partially tore his UCL and will experience the joys of TJ). I'll hope he doesn't choose PRP injections, but that's another story that I've already discussed.

What we don't know - when it comes to any pitcher in this situation, be it Matt Harvey or Wandy Rodriguez or Charlie Morton or whomever, is how exactly we can help them if athletes are unwilling to take care of themselves. From the ESPN report on Matt Harvey (emphasis mine):

Harvey said he had been experiencing forearm tenderness for a month or two but had been getting treatment and did not believe any major issue existed. "I haven't had shooting pains down my hand or in my elbow at all. It's mostly been forearm tightness. It's something, obviously, I could pitch through. It just so happens this last start was a little bit more uncomfortable than normal, and I decided it was in my best interest to get it checked out. I was hoping for ... tenderness or just some stiffness and swelling of the muscle area, and it obviously turned out to be something else. That was definitely a shock."

Let's look at this. Matt Harvey has been having this classic red flag forearm/elbow tightness for two months before he shifted from "I'll just tough it out" to "maybe something bad is going on, I should get it checked out." That is entirely too long to be attempting "The Most Conservative Treatment Possible" in general, let alone for your staff ace, and the team should know that, even if the athlete doesn't.

Secondly, Harvey appears to have been under the impression that because he didn't have shooting pains down his arm, it must not have been a serious injury. Again, this is indicative of either Harvey or the team being ignorant to the injury. While shooting pains are a very serious and alarming symptom, their absence shouldn't alter your perspective of the potential seriousness of the injury. This, again, is something the team should be aware of if not Harvey; there certainly have been pitchers who have had UCL tears and also experienced those shooting pains, but the former did not cause the latter - that's indicative of nerve damage.

It should be painfully evident to any throwing athlete, especially a repetitive thrower like a pitcher, that forearm tightness in general, and specifically chronic forearm tightness, has a clear association with - if not a direct link to - UCL damage. It is most definitely NOT in your best interest to try to "pitch through" that tenderness (for at least a whole month?) and "hope that it's just stiffness or swelling" rather than immediately getting it assessed as though it were a torn ligament.

If I'm the Pirates' medical staff, this further moves me to treat any pitcher as though they have had a UCL tear in every case, so that they aren't encouraged to try to "work through it" unless there is certainty that no structural damage is present and that conventional therapy and "working through it"are a reasonable pursuit.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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