Injuries keep piling up for New York Mets franchise third baseman David Wright as this past week he was diagnosed with a shoulder impingement that casts serious doubt on his availability for the start of the season. Two years ago, doctors diagnosed Wright with spinal stenosis, a degenerative condition that creates a narrowing of the spinal column accompanied by nerve pain, weakness and numbness.
The prognosis is basically a doomsday scenario for most professional athletes, but not Wright.
The Amazin’s captain diligently worked through the discomfort in rehab to eventually get back on the diamond in time for the Mets run to the World Series in 2015 after playing in only 38 games during the regular season. With his team riding high off a National League Pennant and Wright effectively managing his back pain, it looked like the seven-time All-Star had overcome improbable odds to return to what he loves doing. Unfortunately, his time in the sun was short-lived as Wright was afflicted with a herniated disc in his neck that forced him to undergo season-ending spinal fusion surgery after appearing in just 37 games in 2016.
The Mets were ravaged by injuries in 2016, but rallied in the second half of the season to secure the Top N.L. Wildcard spot before bowing out to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in the one-game playoff. Playing in just 75 games over the past two seasons, Mets fans became resigned to the fact that Wright would be relegated to a part-time player, if he could play at all in 2017.
More determined than ever, the Norfolk, Virginia native defied his most ardent critics and showed up healthy for spring training this year, even batting in Grapefruit League action. But alas, once again Wright’s body would fail him as a shoulder impingement became the latest setback to strike the Mets slugger. While the severity of the latest injury pales in comparison to his spinal stenosis condition or herniated disc in his neck, it raises the question: is this going to be the final dagger in Wright’s baseball career?
Amazin’ Clubhouse turned to NYC Orthopedic Surgeon and shoulder specialist, Dr. Armin Tehrany, to discuss Wright’s injury outlook. Founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care, Dr. Tehrany explained the nature of Wright’s shoulder impingement and whether it was related to his ongoing neck and back issues.
“Shoulder impingement is a disorder where the rotator cuff muscles and bursa below the acromion impinge against the acroniom leading to pain and discomfort especially with a throwing motion,” detailed Dr. Tehrany. “In the case of David, because of his previous neck surgery it’s likely that the neck and shoulder musculature are in need of continued physical therapy and time in part because of the immobilization process and surgery that he had on his neck.”
While it sounds like Wright’s impingement is correctable with proper rest, rehab and treatment, it’s hard to determine how his body will respond and whether he will regain full strength and mobility in his throwing arm.
“Usually for something like this, it would take anywhere from 3-6 months for any shoulder impingement issues to resolve,” offered Dr. Tehrany. “This is a situation where it’s best to take a wait and see approach at this time. Fortunately, there are other modalities that can be considered if necessary to help speed up this recovery process.”
In Dr. Tehrany’s estimation, Wright didn’t assume any unnecessary risks partaking in spring training and the orthopedist subscribes to the belief that the star infielder needs to actively rehab his shoulder on a daily basis.
“The issue is that his muscles are having a difficult time becoming engaged,” the shoulder specialist explained. “Then the best way to ascertain whether or not he’s ready for exercise with spring training is depending on how his physical therapy is going. It’s important to try during spring training to see how the shoulder reacts. I don’t think he took any risks by playing in spring training, it was the right thing to do.”
Wright is no stranger to hard work as he has exuded tenacity and resilience whether he's grinding out a clutch at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning or battling through a potentially career-threatening health issue. Dr. Tehrany argues that Wright’s recovery timeline will be a direct product of his work ethic and warns that it won’t be fixed overnight.
“With the shoulder and impingement this is usually more of a gradual process, so he might wake up one day and get better, but it’s only because he spent many months working on it,” said the founder of Manhattan-Orthopedic Care. “It is different than the issue regarding the spine surgery, but because the shoulder and the neck are so closely related; the two are connected.”
While it’s a longshot that Wright will be ready for opening day when the Mets host the Braves on April 3, Dr. Tehrany paints a bright and clear forecast for the beloved captain's expected return from injury.