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Rich Harden Injury History/AnalysisInsider info from a Physical Therapist


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#1 FantasyMerchDC

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 03:49 PM

Rich Harden, SP, Oakland Athletics
Injuries: Elbow Ligament Sprain (Ulnar Collateral Ligament), Oblique Strain, and Rotator Cuff Strain
Surgery: None to Date

Rich Harden is a true talent, nobody questions that - however, nobody can question his durability issues either, and that is the real concern when debating whether or not to draft this possible Cy Young winner. He is blessed with overpowering heat on his fastball, as well as an absolutely devastating slider as his ‘out’ pitch. His aggressive nature on the mound is likely responsible, in part, for his rash of injuries early in his career. He did make 31 starts in 2004, his only healthy season, but was limited to 22 in 2005, and only 9 in 2006, due to muscular strains of his Rotator Cuff (back of the shoulder and shoulder blade) and Oblique (side abdominal) muscles, as well as the most concerning of the three - the sprained elbow, more specifically the Ulnar Collateral Ligament.

Fantasy-wise, this is a guy who is more likely to pitch less than 150 innings instead of 200+, so you simply cannot bank on him as your #1 SP. As a matter of fact, I would not be comfortable taking Harden unless I had two other bonafide starting pitchers in front of him. When he is on top of his game, expect a low 3.00’s ERA, with a WHIP somewhere in the vicinity of 1.20, with gaudy strikeout totals approaching 8 to 9 K’s per 9 IP. Not only that, but hitters have an awful time against him due to his spectacular slider that busts lefties, and hammers away from righties.

About the Injuries:
* Of the three that I have mentioned, the Oblique strain is the easiest to heal. The Internal Obliques run from the ribcage and base of the breastbone (Xiphoid Process) and attach to the Pelvis, and help to rotate the trunk towards the side the trunk is rotating towards. Conversely, the External Obliques rotate the trunk to the opposite side. Thus, if a righthanded pitcher like Harden is cocking back to deliver a pitch, he is initially using his right Internal Obliques and left External Obliques and vice versa during the follow through towards home plate. It is also important to note that the Internal Obliques assist in exhalation during breathing.  An injury to these muscles can be painful for a pitcher, because they require such finely tuned rotation of the trunk as well as timed breathing patterns. An injury to these muscles almost always requires 2 weeks of complete rest, followed by another 2-4 weeks of stretching and strengthening.
* We’ve all heard of the famous “Rotator Cuff Tear”. What is the rotator cuff? It is a collection of muscles in the posterior of the shoulder/shoulder blade that act to stabilize the shoulder during rotational movements. The Rotator Cuff is comprised of many muscles: Supraspinatus (raises arm to the side), Infraspinatus and Teres Minor (rotates the “ball” in the socket laterally), and the Subscapularis and Teres Major (rotates the “ball” in the socket inwardly). Most often, the Supraspinatus and Infraspinatus are the muscles you hear everyone talking about when they’re torn. But the cuff is not always torn. Sometimes it is just inflamed (Tendonitis), and sometimes there is some mild yet painful damage to the muscle fibers (strain). Other times, the muscle and tendon are torn, and this is when significant rest and in most cases, surgery, are required to repair the shoulder. I will go over this when I discuss Pedro Martinez in the next post.
* Thirdly, and most importantly for the 2007 season, is the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) sprain that he had last year. This is the ligament that made famous the term “Tommy John”. This ligament connects the distal Humerus (large upper arm bone) to the Ulna (small forearm bone closest to your side). This ligament offers the elbow a great deal of its stability on the inside aspect, and controls rotation of the forearm to a degree. It is placed on extreme tension when the arm is decelerating in an overhead position, just as the arm is being brought forward to throw, especially during a curveball. When the ligament is overstrained, it becomes too flexible and weak, and in some cases can rip apart in the middle of the ligament or completely detach from its bony attachments. If surgery is needed, they remove the ligament and replace it with a tendon, which has more strength than a ligament. They usually take the ligament from the forearm, hamstring, foot, or knee of the patient. Rehabilitation takes at least 1 year for pitchers and about 6 months for position players (perhaps slightly more for a catcher or shortstop).

Clinical Impression: In watching Harden throw, it is easy for me to see how he would get hurt so often. He is tall (6’1”) and skinny by most standards (180lbs, about my weight), and has an abrupt “cocking phase” during his delivery, which exerts tremendous force on his entire shoulder-elbow complex. Someone with his body type needs to be constantly exercising and conditioning their rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder so as to stabilize the joint and to reduce strain at the elbow. He seems to do well early in the season and gets hurt late in the season, which indicates to me that he has great anaerobic, or gross, muscle strength, but has less than adequate aerobic strength and muscle endurance. This could be aided by performing light weight, high repetition exercises for 3 or more sets 3-4 times weekly. If Harden dedicates himself to a strict regimen of these types of exercise in combination with his “heavy” weightlifting, and work on general trunk and low back stretching, he should perform much better late in the season. Only time will tell.
The good news: He is young and can heal quickly, and also has time to change his workout and rehabilitation habits.
The bad news: once a ligament is sprained, whether its in your ankle or elbow, it is always more susceptible to getting hurt again because it loses its intrinsic strength. When a ligament is merely sprained, it can take 6-8 weeks for it to heal.
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#2 bloodface

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 06:06 PM

Very informative, thank you for sharing!!!
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#3 roughboy

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 04:10 PM

You ought to give Billy Beane a call;you could probably get a job!!

#4 jakoye23

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Posted 20 February 2007 - 08:14 PM

I suspect that the injuries other than the ligament strain were actually caused by Harden trying to overcompensate due to the ligament strain. So if his elbow is good, I don't think olbique or shoulder trouble will be the problem.

The real question is, is the ligament good? We shall see.

#5 HighLanderZ

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Posted 08 March 2007 - 02:54 PM

Food for thought ...
"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses; behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights." - Muhammad Ali

#6 CrypTviLL

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Posted 08 March 2007 - 02:58 PM

Great post, thanks for the knowledge
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#7 Xue

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Posted 08 March 2007 - 07:19 PM

His "out" pitch is a
Splitter he uses as an offspeed pitch, not a Slider.  Although he does throw a slider as well in addition to a changeup.

#8 Luckynines

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 01:32 PM

This was a take on Harden last year, thought it was an interesting post.
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#9 z32tt_envy

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 01:52 PM

Wow...this highlights what great quality and informative posts this forum used to be filled with.
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