Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has been dealing with a shoulder injury for several weeks and it looked like it came to a possibly serious head on Monday night.. The possibility of surgery was jumped around, speculatively, but Padres says it is not necessary right now and Tatis will try to return within the next few weeks.
CBS Sports obtained Dr. Rodney Benner, an orthopedic surgeon with extensive sports medicine experience, to hopefully answer any questions fans may have about the case. As always with cases like this, let’s remember that Dr. Benner has not personally examined Tatis, so we’re talking in general terms as it relates to sports injuries of this type.
Quick spoiler, Padre fans: You’ll probably be hpy by reading the answers to the last two questions.
CBS: Padres has said Tatis suffered a subluxation in his left shoulder with partial tearing of the labrum. Can you give us a layman’s view of what it is and how it will affect him playing baseball going forward, knowing that it is his non-throwing hand?
Dr. Benner: A shoulder dislocation is when the shoulder ball comes completely out of the socket and often remains out until it is manually put back in place. A shoulder subluxation is when the ball comes partially out of the socket and returns immediately at once. It is less serious than a complete distortion. However, there may be safety damage to the load-bearing structures around the joint, especially the labrum, which is a cartilage ring that surrounds and deepens the shoulder joint. When the shoulder comes out, even partially, it can tear the labrum out of the socket. This is potentially important because it can make the shoulder more likely to come out again.
As for the effect on his future play, it is more likely that each time the shoulder will come out of its place again. So time will tell if the damage can be healed without future episodes of instability. What I’m wondering is if his swing mechanics need to be changed because of this injury. Tatis has a very strong one-handed follow-up and it was at the end of his swing where the shoulder injury occurred. If it is uncomfortable to throw one’s shoulder violently into this follow-up or results in continued instability, it can develop into a long-term problem.
CBS: They’ve put him on the 10-day injury list to give it time for “inflammation and some of the instability to calm down.” Does it seem reasonable that this kind of injury can only cause 10 days on the injured list and then stay healthy enough for him to play the rest of the year?
Dr. Benner: Shoulder subluxations can vary widely on the order of anywhere from a few weeks up to several weeks or even a few months. This variability comes with the sport that the athlete returns to, whether throwing shoulder is involved, how bad the labrum injury is, and several other factors. It takes time for shoulder inflammation to calm down and for the healing of the surrounding structures that were injured when the shoulder came out to occur. It is not excluded that a short IL period can get him better, but I would guess that it will take longer than just 10 days before he returns to the game, maybe more in the direction of 3-4 weeks, though it really is a guess as I have not examined him or undergone his MRI scan.
CBS: If he comes back, what is the probability that he will get a worse injury? That is, is there a high risk of harming his long-term prospects by trying a rehab and return route instead of just getting surgery now and getting it over with?
Dr. Benner: Most first-time shoulder subluxations are treated non-surgically and heal, at least first. As such, I doubt many surgeons will go in for surgery on him now, provided it is actually his first shoulder instability episode, as it would end his season almost as soon as it has said. The real risk is for continued episodes of instability, and there really is no perfect way to predict whether he will get additional episodes and need surgery or not.
CBS: Let’s say he comes back, gets an injury again and then gets surgery to clean things up, repair labrum tears, etc. Should we expect him to pretty much get back the same player before the injury? Or are long-term prospects here worrying?
Dr. Benner: Since it’s his non-throwing shoulder, he can see no reason why he can not come back and be the same player if he ends up having surgery. One caveat is whether he would require mechanical adjustments to prevent further instability, and whether this would lead to a decrease in his performance.