Joel Zumaya vs. tendons: FIGHT!

photo by Samara Pearlstein

There are some nights where you just don’t have it. Tonight was one of those nights for the Tigers. Maybe it was the rain delay, maybe it was the fact that they hadn’t seen Cha Seung Baek before, maybe it was sea monkeys, but whatever it was, the Tigs just could not get anything done. Except for Brandon Inge. Brandon Inge had a defensive night of Awesome. But defense at third base doesn’t get you runs, so instead of just sulking over a uniformly bad night, I’m returning to the tendony drama of Joel Zumaya once again.

This was pretty much the worst case scenario. Zoom ruptured a tendon, will require surgery, and is out for an estimated 12 weeks. That’s 3 months. Let me spell that out all nice and bold, so that you can further appreciate the length of time.

Three months.

Adam Eaton (currently of the Phillies) has ruptured finger tendons and rehabbed back from them twice. Listen when he speaks!

“I’ve done the three-month thing twice. The first time I tried to throw through it, but it got better once I stopped throwing. He[Zoom]’ll be fine if he sticks to the schedule and doesn’t rush it.”

DetroitTigers.com article

If he sticks to the schedule and doesn’t rush it. Yes. This is one of my concerns. We have had numerous examples of Zoom showing his age, or lack thereof, this season. It would be JUST like him to start thinking he’s a big tough dude, a little pain isn’t anything to him, he can TOTALLY start throwing early.

We must prevent this at all costs. Hurrying back from a finger injury is just asking for permanent deformity of the finger, and thus possible significant loss of pitching ability. Joel Zumaya is young, impulsive, hot-headed. I don’t care if we have to duct tape him, spread-eagled, to the front gates of Comerica Park to prevent him from messing with his hand too early, and if that’s what it takes, I’ll be first in line with a whole damn bag full of duct tape rolls. Because duct tape fixes everything, up to and including youthful relief pitchers.

As is annoyingly usual for baseball, we are given precious little information about the precise nature of the injury. We know that Zoom ruptured a tendon in his right-hand middle finger, but which tendon? There are many. The photo up top there shows some of them (tendons are yellowish, bone is gray, connective tissue and ligament is blue, muscle is pink).

Flexor tendons curl the fingers in towards the palm (flex them), and run down from the fingers into the inside, or underside, of the forearm. Extensor tendons straighten the fingers (extend them) and run over the tops of the fingers and down the ‘top’ side of the forearm. The forearm strain that Zoom experienced in his Guitar Hero days was in the bundle of muscles in the forearm, the very same muscles that control the action of the tendons in the fingers.

This new injury, which seems at least for now to be wholly related to how hard Zoom grips the ball and the force of the torque with which he throws it, would probably bear out his previous claims that his forearm problems were caused by his pitching and not really by video games (I still think it’s stupid for him to refuse to stop playing the damn thing). Obviously he’s had a lot of problems in the same general area. You have to wonder if perhaps the forearm injury caused him to change his grip on the ball, which led to this rupture, or if his grip has just been consistently unhealthy.

Anyways. As I said, there’s almost no specific information about Zoom’s injury. Is it a flexor or extensor tendon? It is apparently not for us, the mere fans, to know. I want to say it’s the long extensor tendon, because that seems more likely to rupture when your finger is snapping off of a fastball, but I really don’t know for sure. Here’s a better look at that particular tendon, regardless:

Really I think this entire article was just an excuse for me to draw on myself again.

If you’re curious about those 12 weeks of Zumayan rehab, here’s a breakdown of finger tendon surgery recovery that I ran across in my (entirely unprofessional and haphazard) researches.

After surgery and depending on the type of cut, the injured area can either be protected from movement or started on a very specific limited movement program for three to four weeks. From four to six weeks after the operation, more motion is allowed of the injured finger. After six weeks, the repaired tendon will be increasingly stretched and used more normally. Assuming no problems have developed, usually three months are required for healing to be complete.

Penn State Plastic Surgery article

Three months for healing to be complete, but that doesn’t take into account how long, beyond that timetable presumably, it would take for Zoom to regain the ‘feel’ of his pitches. He may technically be out for 12 weeks, but we may actually be losing him for even longer than that. Fully repaired mobility and form in the finger does not necessarily equal full recovery of pitching prowess.

I would much rather see Zoom wait 18 or 20 weeks and come back fully fixed than see him try to gut it out at 12 or, cats forbid, even earlier. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD, something that many injured professional athletes fail to acknowledge, Zoom especially. So let’s just hope he doesn’t get too bored sitting on the bench and let’s hope he doesn’t get the restless urge to whip himself up into a pitching-cabin-fever-ridden reliever…. with a permanently busted finger.

7 responses to “Joel Zumaya vs. tendons: FIGHT!

  1. I would guess the sublimus or the profundus… I think I read somewhere where Zumaya (weak-stomached readers may want to skip this next part) described how the tip of his finger (past the 2nd knuckle) was just sort of dangling there… Neat illustrations, though. Could’ve done without the blown-up signature of Allan H. Selig, however.

  2. who knew tendons looked so cool?!

  3. Could very well be, Jeff… but a complete severance of any of these tendons will, I think, leave the finger dangling to some degree. And sorry ’bout the sig, it was either that ball or a NY-Penn League one. :P
    Tiff, they look much cooler when they’re in ridiculous colors like this, heh.

  4. In the case of the NY-Penn League ball, it would be vaguely interesting to see who signs their ball. At least (I assume) this wouldn’t be a person upon whom I have already invested a fair amount of unnatural (though not undeserved) hatred.
    Uh… Back to the point of this post: Get well soon, Zoom!

  5. Who signs the NY-Penn league balls? This dude. He’s the league president.

  6. See? I told you that would at least hold some interest, whereas Selig… Just gives me heartburn.

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