Sunday, December 20, 2009

Medics Cast Shadow on Mike Lowell's Career

Little wonder that the Texas Rangers backed out on the acquisition of Boston third baseman Mike Lowell, considering that a medical examination sends a fairly clear signal that not only will he need surgery but that his career is questionable.

The Red Sox can spin the story as favorably as they want, with the prediction that Lowell will be ready for Spring, but the Rangers doctors know better.

Surgical repair of the ulnar collateral ligament in Lowell's right thumb is among the most difficult surgeries for athletes, particularly baseball players. The key problem is that the ligament is isolated, it is almost the sole manipulative link to the brain, and yet is intricately tiny. Merely maintaining blood flow to the ligament during surgery is a challenge, as a drop in blood pressure can rapidly bring on necropathy.

Though Lowell can look forward to a normal and happy and more or less totally functional use of this thumb for the rest of his life as a private citizen, the question of swinging a bat is another consideration altogether. At least Lowell can take satisfaction from the fact that it's his right ligament; for the left could be even more problematic.