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  1. Byron Buxton Shoulder Injury Q&A heezy1323 Byron Buxton, as we all know, is an outstanding center fielder for our Twins. Unfortunately, he has dealt with a variety of injuries that have cost him significant time over the past few seasons. This weekend he sustained an injury to his left shoulder that was termed a ‘subluxation’ and is headed back to the IL. By the sound of things, he is likely to be away from the big club for at least a few weeks. This is a tough blow for the Twins as the Indians make a push to catch up to a team that has led the division essentially all season. Medical terminology can be confusing, so I thought a post about shoulder subluxations might be of interest to TD readers. As usual- my disclaimer is that I am not a Twins team physician. I have not examined Byron nor seen any imaging of his injury. I am not speaking on behalf of the Twins. I am only hoping to familiarize TD readers with some of the concerns that may be ahead regarding injuries similar to Buxton’s. Question 1: How does the shoulder normally work? The shoulder is considered a ball-and-socket joint. The round ball (humeral head) sits in the socket (glenoid) similar to how a golf ball sits on a golf tee. Around the perimeter of the golf tee is a strong cartilage tissue called a labrum. The labrum surrounds the socket similar to the red gasket on a mason jar lid. Its function is to help act as a ‘bumper’ to hold the golf ball on the golf tee. It is also an attachment point for ligaments around the shoulder that also contribute to shoulder stability. The ligaments make up the ‘capsule’ of the shoulder joint. I often tell patients that the capsule is like a water balloon that surrounds the joint. The ligaments that make up the capsule form the connection between the ball and the socket. Question 2: What is a shoulder subluxation? The term ‘subluxation’ is typically used in situations where a joint partially (or nearly) dislocates. This is not specific to the shoulder and can happen in a number of other areas of the body as well (such as the kneecap, for example). This is distinct from a true ‘dislocation’ where the ball comes completely out of the socket and then goes back in. If someone dislocates their shoulder and it stays dislocated, it is typically clear what has happened. Xrays will show the ball dislocated from the socket and the shoulder will be manipulated to ‘reduce’ the ball back to its normal position. However, in some cases cases the ball can completely dislocate and go back in on its own very quickly. In these cases, an xray would often look normal. In most cases when there is concern about an injury of this type, an MRI is ordered. This of course shows additional details of the bone and soft tissue that cannot be seen on an xray alone. Usually an MRI will allow for a pretty solid conclusion as to whether the injury that occurred was a ‘subluxation’ (less severe) or a true ‘dislocation’ (more severe). There is, of course, a spectrum of damage that can occur with any injury and this is no exception. It’s possible that there was some minimal stretch to the ligaments around the shoulder and no other significant damage (best case). It’s also possible that there was more significant damage to the ligaments and potentially even a tear of the labrum (more worrisome). The MRI would typically give a good approximation of these issues. In most cases, the damage that occurs with a subluxation is less significant than that which occurs with a dislocation. Question 3: Does it make a difference that the injury is to his left shoulder rather than his right? In my opinion, absolutely. Because it is his non-throwing shoulder, the stresses placed on it are less. Even small issues with the ligaments can be problematic in the throwing shoulder- particularly someone who can approach 100mph on throws from the outfield. That said, the left shoulder is Byron’s front shoulder when hitting. In most hitters it is the front shoulder that is more stressed. It is possible that Buxton’s recovery is more affected at the plate than in the field (though that’s impossible to predict with certainty, of course). Question 4: Does this injury make it more likely that Byron will dislocate his shoulder in the future? Possibly. As discussed above, there is a spectrum of damage that can occur with this injury. If the damage is near the minimal end, it probably doesn’t have a significant effect on his likelihood of injuring this shoulder in the future. If there is more significant structural damage, it may place him at higher risk. Question 5: What is the purpose of the rehab? In addition to the capsule and labrum discussed above in question 1, the muscles around the shoulder also contribute to stability. I often tell patients to imagine that there is canopy over the top of the golf ball pulling it down onto the golf tee and helping to hold it in place. This is similar to the way your rotator cuff functions. I suspect rehab for Buxton will include strengthening exercises for a number of muscles around the shoulder that contribute to stability. Also, these muscles can be strained during the injury, so they can sometimes need additional time to recover along with the ligaments. Question 6: Will Buxton need surgery? This is essentially impossible to answer right now, likely even for the physicians and training staff involved in Byron’s care. As I sometimes tell my patients, “The crystal ball is a little murky.” Without knowing the extent of any structural issues in Byron’s shoulder, I would say that it is somewhat unlikely this will require surgery. I would expect that even if surgery is required, it would only occur after an attempt at non-surgical treatment has been unsuccessful. Question 7: How long will it be before he is able to return to play? This is also a difficult question to answer. The fact that the early word is that he will be out a few weeks is consistent with what I would expect from an injury like this. The rehab often takes time to regain full motion and strength. I would hope he can be back patrolling center field before the end of August, but it’s certainly possible this lingers into September. It seems unlikely that this would be a season-ending injury, but only time will tell. Clearly this Twins team is better when Byron is on the field rather than on the IL. Let’s hope he heals quickly and can help the Twins down the stretch. GO TWINS!
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