Zimmerman’s Out and Headfirst Sliding

Right now, Ryan Zimmerman is rehabbing his shoulder, and if it doesn’t get better he’s going to have to undergo surgery. He’s got at least another 4 to 6 weeks of rehab. So at this rate, he’s not going to be back ’til at least July, probably after the All Star break. But why?

Why should a 23 year old player who is going to be part of the future need to risk ANYTHING? I’m not saying the Nats are doing this, I assume he will rehab and if there are any problems they will shut him down. But I don’t even see the need to take the risk. Originally I thought that if he didn’t rehab properly then they’d have to do surgery, which is still true. My first reaction was to shut him down NOW, have him undergo surgery NOW, so he can start rehabbing from that earlier. But doctor’s say they don’t think he’s gonna need surgery, so I am just urging the team to not rush him back in any way. And if there are any lingering issues, then keep resting. And if that doesn’t clear anything up, go get the surgery ASAP. I just don’t want one of the cornerstones of this team playing with a little ‘twinge’ for the second half of his season and screwing up his swing. It doesn’t seem worth it to me.

What’s annoying to me is how he injured his shoulder – in a headfirst slide. When are players going to learn that headfirst slides are dangerous and shouldn’t be done? The injury risk is apparent for a headfirst slide. Sure, the shoulder can be hurt like what has happened to Zim. Or hurting your hands and fingers, meaning you can swing the bat or throw a baseball properly. But it’s also very possible to injure your neck and the top of your spinal chord. Spinal chord injuries are not exactly players need to be made aware of that, because I’m not sure they are. The list of people injured on headfirst sliding is not a short one, and includes names like Derek Jeter, Jose Reyes, Michael Barrett, Kenny Lofton, .

The worst part about it, is that there is no evidence it makes you slide any faster. In fact, some evidence suggests there is no difference in the time it take to reach the base safely. Other studies have even shown that sliding in headfirst actually slows players down, thanks to increased friction and the slight hesitation of players who fear hitting the ground face first. There is some argument that headfirst sliding offers you more control, but it is hardly convincing to me. Rather, people just don’t know how to slide feet first. Maybe in spring training, just like teaching pitchers how to cover first base every single year, teams need to remind players how to slide properly. People will say they are playing at full speed and instincts tell them to slide headfirst, but with enough training, players could instinctively (and properly) slide feetfirst. I just find it ridiculous to think that great, and otherwise intelligent, players are missing time because they slid incorrectly.

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