Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has been dealing with a shoulder injury for several weeks and it looked like it came to a possibly serious head on Monday night. . The possibility of surgery was bounced around, speculatively, but the Padres say that's not necessary right now and Tatis will attempt to return within the next few weeks.
CBS Sports caught up with Dr. Rodney Benner, an orthopedic surgeon with extensive sports medicine experience, to hopefully answer any questions fans might have on the matter. As always with cases like this, let's keep in mind Dr. Benner has not personally examined Tatis, so we're speaking in general terms as it pertains to sports injuries of this type.
Quick spoiler, Padres fans: You'll probably be happy in reading the answers to the last two questions.
CBS: The Padres have said Tatis suffered a subluxation in his left shoulder with partial tearing of the labrum. Could you give us a layman's term breakdown of what that is and how it would affect him playing baseball moving forward, knowing that's his non-throwing hand?
Dr. Benner: A shoulder dislocation is when the ball of the shoulder comes completely out of the socket, and often stays out until it is manually put back in place. A shoulder subluxation is when the ball comes partially out of the socket and returns back into place immediately. It is less severe than a complete dislocation. However, there can be collateral damage to the supporting structures around the joint, most notably the labrum, which is a ring of cartilage that surrounds and deepens the shoulder socket. When the shoulder comes out, even partially, it can tear the labrum off of the edge of the socket. This is potentially significant because it can make the shoulder more likely to come out again.
As for the effect on his future play, every time the shoulder comes out of place it is more likely to do so again. So time will tell whether the injury can heal without future episodes of instability. What I wonder is whether his swing mechanics will have to be altered because of this injury. Tatis has a very forceful one-handed follow through, and it was at the end of his swing where the shoulder injury occurred. If throwing his shoulder violently into that follow through is uncomfortable or results in continued instability, it could develop into a long term issue.
CBS: They've placed him on the 10-day injured list to give it time for "inflammation and some of the instability to calm down." Does it seem reasonable that this kind of injury could only cause 10 days on the injured list and then stay healthy enough for him to play the rest of the year?
Dr. Benner: Shoulder subluxations can be very variable, along the order of anywhere from a couple of weeks up to several weeks or even a couple months. That variability comes with the sport that athlete is returning to, whether the throwing shoulder is involved, how bad the labrum injury is, and several other factors. It takes time for the shoulder inflammation to calm down and for the healing of the surrounding structures that were injured when the shoulder came out to occur. It is not out of the question that a short IL stint could get him better, but I would guess that it will take longer than just 10 days before he returns to playing, maybe more along the lines of 3-4 weeks, though that is really a guess, since I haven't examined him or reviewed his MRI scan.
CBS: If he does come back, what's the likelihood he suffers a worse injury? That is, is there much risk to harming his long-term prospects by trying a rehab-and-return route instead of just getting surgery now and getting it over with?
Dr. Benner: Most first time shoulder subluxations are treated non-surgically and heal, at least at first. As such, I doubt that many surgeons would advocate for operating on him now, assuming it is indeed his first shoulder instability episode, as that would end his season almost as soon as it has started. The real risk is for continued episodes of instability, and there really isn't a perfect way to predict if he'll have further episodes and require surgery or not.
CBS: Let's say he comes back, suffers an injury again and then has surgery to clean things up, repair the labrum tear, etc. Should we expect him to come back basically the same player before the injury? Or are long-term prospects here worrisome?
Dr. Benner: Since it is his non-throwing shoulder, if he does end up with surgery, I don't see any reason why he can't come back and be the same type of player. The one caveat is whether he would require any mechanical adjustments to prevent further instability and whether this would lead to a decrease in his performance.