Medical professional believes Jacob deGrom avoided the worst

Medical professional believes Jacob deGrom avoided the worst

JUPITER, Fla. — The revelation that Jacob deGrom will miss Opening Day and potentially much more — perhaps two months of the season — came as an ill-timed gut punch to Mets fans.

Medical professionals reacted differently.

“I think this is a huge relief,” said Dr. Michael Alaia, a sports health expert and associate professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Health.

An MRI exam Friday found the Mets superstar has a stress reaction in his right scapula. According to Alaia, the “extremely rare” injury in lay humans — though not unheard of in pitchers — is caused by repetitive stress on the muscles that are pulling on the shoulder blade bone.

The Mets have said their co-ace will not throw for up to four weeks before they get more imaging on his throwing shoulder. Given that deGrom will first have to allow the bone to heal before building back up again, it’s possible he won’t debut this season until June.

Jacob deGrom pitches during a Mets spring training game.
Corey Sipkin

But the odds of this injury spiraling into something greater are slight.

“Thankfully, most of the time these don’t need surgery,” Alaia said over the phone. “Thankfully, most of the time these heal very nicely with a period of relative rest.

“If this was something more — like a rotator cuff injury or labrum injury or something soft tissue related that may or may not heal — I think that can potentially bode a little bit more of a negative prognosis, or it could leave the future a little bit more undecided. Bones heal really well in the human body.”

DeGrom dealt with injury after injury last season, from a right lat issue to tightness in his right side to shoulder and forearm discomfort. A low-grade tear of his UCL did not allow him to pitch after July 7 last season.

According to Alaia, it’s possible the stress reaction is related to his injury history.

“If he is changing the mechanism of his throwing by trying to protect the elbow, then perhaps he’s using different muscles in his shoulder,” Alaia said, “causing different types of stress in the shoulder and pulling on the scapula.”

The top treatment, which the Mets are employing, is rest. Given enough time of inactivity, stress reaction heals, and typically for good.

“The chances of this recurring are probably going to be very small,” Alaia said.

Jacob deGrom
Jacob deGrom
Corey Sipkin

Several pitchers — including former Yankee Brandon McCarthy and former Met Michael Wacha — have dealt with the injury in the past and returned to full health. McCarthy sat for about 6 ½ weeks in 2011 with the injury, while Wacha missed about 11 weeks in 2014.

“Since this injury technically should be named after me I can say that this really isn’t a big deal,” McCarthy tweeted after deGrom’s diagnosis became public. “Not as big as it seems. He’ll be just fine.”

Any time without deGrom will be painful for the Mets, who have World Series hopes primarily because of the pairing of deGrom and Max Scherzer at the top of the rotation.

If they can hang in the race without perhaps the best pitcher on the planet, the belief is the stress reaction won’t nag deGrom once he returns.

“I think the good news here is that nothing’s structurally wrong,” GM Billy Eppler said.

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