Already for a few seasons I have felt concerned about the string of tendon/ligament/long muscle injuries to A’s players. I am not either an MD or a PT, but as they say in the medical world, "the patient is the best specialist in his own illness." And after three major injuries related to my back between the ages of 12 and 16, I have been in and out of various therapies related to my walking mechanics for the last 58 years, so hopefully that makes me somewhat of a specialist on leg motion and back injuries. In fact, the only possible therapeutic intervention I have not tried was hypnosis - and that only because I do not respond to hypnotism.Padres vs Athletics coverage
At this moment, the A’s have two of their key players – one, Cespedes, a long-term star project; the other, McCarthy, their front line pitcher – in an iffy position of losing games due to physical problems without visible injury. That situation usually reflects either psychological tensions, or soft-tissue strains. In the first case, muscles/ligaments/tendons experience long-term tensions which weaken them in some way; in the second case, those soft-tissue elements pull bone component out of alignment, generally producing pains due to pressure on nerve branches and/or blood vessels feeding moving parts. PTs know all about these injuries, or are supposed to – something my personal experience disproves, since I went through physical therapy for extended periods of time too, experiencing their full "bag of tricks" – ice, heat, traction, some electronic stimulation, massage, yoga exercises, soft-tissue work – with only temporary relief.
That varied personal experience leads me to believe that both players, and the A’s as a team, would benefit from two treatment systems that were the only ones that helped me to go through life – otherwise I would have stayed paralyzed, or partially disabled, a long time ago. One of these therapies is Rolffing ("Structural Integration") in its original form, as used in the early 70’s – a painful and painstaking process, applied by MD’s or Physical Therapists with a high degree of anatomical knowledge – since then this form of therapy has become gentler, to be applied by women, rather than by strong men with powerful hands, which is what it would take in the case of athletes). Rolffing is a therapy based on "soft tissue work", where the therapist goes over every tendon, muscle, and ligament in the body, promoting its flexibility by strong finger "penetration", freeing it for individual action – something children have, though grown-ups lose by "stiffening up" with age. A common generalization states that Rolffing rejuvenates a person by about ten years – my only evidence of that being that truly, for about ten years after undergoing it, I did not have any problems with my body motion – luckily, that was when I helped coach my kids in Little Leagues and Youth Soccer. So it seems to me that, actually, all A’s players, not just the injured ones, would benefit from such treatment, as either a prophylactic or remedial measure. Since the net effect of Rolffing is somewhat unpredictable, I would just suggest that even injuries currently being repaired with expensive "Tommy John" surgeries might be, at least partially, prevented by higher soft tissue strength and flexibility.
As an alternative – I will not venture whether it is a better or worse one, though it seems to be more accessible at this point and more objective in its results – the A’s could hire a qualified Russian "Manual Therapist", to complement their trainers. I currently spend most of my time in Russia, where I have been able to walk only due to treatment by this type of medical doctors; this specialty does not exist anywhere else in the world, it is not very common even in Russia (because of its required superior multi-disciplinary medical training), though I was fortunate enough to be treated by a doctor who treats the Kremlin administration, plus several other doctors within this specialty. It is a combination of Orthopedics, Rehabilitation, Osteopathy, Neurology, and other methodologies for both diagnostics and treatment.
To expand on Manual Therapy, from what I observed, these doctors use varied techniques. Some are relatively common ones – electronic waveform generators applying various waveforms which stimulate concrete nerve pathways or specific muscles, pulse diagnostics (monitoring pulse by touch, while applying various forms of therapeutic intervention), Shiatsu/acupressure to stimulate or desensitize various nerve nodes, various degrees of temperature applied to concrete spots, etc. Others are very sophisticated research-level techniques, often based on personal abilities – as a psychologist with additional training in parapsychology; I have seen many events akin to "miracles", dependant on such personal abilities. Diagnostics/therapies that I witnessed among these Manual Therapists included a high level of intuition (to the point where one of the doctors told me that "he does not know why he does with me, what he does – he just knows that, at the moment, that is what I need"), Guided Visualization (a relatively well known technique in high-level sports, though methodologies vary a lot), application of techniques akin to Chiropractics (an anathema to official Medicine), though Chiropractics as such does not exist in Russia, where Medicine is either extremely experimental, or very "natural" (usually, phytotherapy).
On a higher level yet, though, they use ESP – as an example, the therapist sensing pain points by passing his/her hands above the body of the patient; or zeroing in, at first sight - intuitively, on a particular spot/joint/tendon/vertebra to manipulate it to best effect; or applying "holistic thinking" – making physical body associations, unreachable by medicine based on specialization; or, something I still cannot quite believe – surrounding the patient with specified paintings that have a concrete healing effect; or, promoting circulation to striated muscles (like hamstrings, calves, and biceps) by "unblocking" certain nerve-roots in the spinal column – recalling such practice is what triggered me to associate this treatment with the needs of our A’s players. After all, Cespedes’ injuries seem to be associated with lack of circulation, or lack of flexibility of hamstrings – something a Manual Therapist used to "repair" in my case, when I could barely walk, by manipulating a spot between my L-vertebrae and my Sacrum.
As to the scapula, it often becomes painful from overexertion, though the pain appears when at rest. This is reflected pain – after all, nobody hit us on the shoulder! It is part of the hand control mechanism, where three D- and C-vertebrae are involved – and, as I suspected, sometimes there is some interaction with the so called "carpal-tunnel syndrome," since I helped such pains by using stiff wrist immobilizers. The main remedy seems to be to manipulate around a couple of vertebrae in the middle of the back, the Dorsal area - regrettably, since I cannot see behind my back, I could not detect what specific vertebrae were at stake, though I was told that they become visibly red, inflamed. I have tried to understand the relationship between manipulation of root nerves at the column and circulation issues, to no avail – however, neurologists seem to give that for granted, albeit not being able to do anything about circulation directly – that is out of their specialization area.
Hope this generates some new ideas; maybe the A’s staff would be open to new approaches. After all, in a small-market situation the team is forced to experiment – to wit the experiment with Manny or, as I seem to recall, their attempt to use "Miotherapy" - another form of unorthodox manipulation to forestall muscular pain - for some players. (I do not have any information on the results of that approach). Also, they are observing the seemingly successful example of another practice not accepted by the AMA – the cell stem therapy used by Bartolo Colon. So, maybe they would be willing to do some further research on the above therapies. In fact, I would not be surprised if they already use Rolffing – though its effectiveness nowadays, to me, is questionable – some friends underwent it recently, to no much avail, while in the 70’s it seemed like a miracle to me (Dr. McDonald, at Kaiser – Vallejo, spent 13 hours "torturing" every inch of my body, though right afterwards he was forbidden from spending so much time on a patient again!).
Best wishes, to the A’s. It is incredible to me that the closest thing to the two Team stars – the best pitcher and that outstanding Cespedes – are both on a constant verge of being on the DL!