If oblique injuries seem like a new ailment, they’re not. Injuries to the set of three flat muscles in the side of the body that essentially connect the rib cage and the pelvis, have always existed. But, according to medical experts in the sport, injuries to that part of the body are occurring more often than before — so much so that it has caught the attention of league officials.
“The oblique is in in 2012,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “Everybody seems to have one. I didn’t know that those things were contagious.”
There is no conclusive reason why more oblique injuries are occurring. Experts and players offer a variety of theories, from the rise in core training to incorrect training to not enough preparation prior to the season.
Stan Conte, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ senior director of medical services, has sorted through the injuries of thousands of players who landed on the disabled list since 1991 and grouped together similar injuries such as intercostals, rib cage and abdominal strains.
Conte found that core injuries have been trending up over the past two decades. From 1991 to 1999, only in one year did more than 20 players land on the disabled list with abdominal muscle strains. The rate of such injuries increased from 2000 to 2010, with at least 20 players affected in eight of those years. Then in the 2011, the number exploded to 50, nearly double the total of 26 from the year before. This season, 32 players have already landed on the disabled list with the injury, he said.
Increased awareness of the injury could be part of the explanation. In the past, the injuries were often known as rib-cage strains or side injuries. Now, the term “oblique” has risen into the sports lexicon, Conte said. Those within baseball have gotten better at identifying oblique injuries. And when top players miss time because of them, such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria last season, such injuries further shoot into the public consciousness, Conte said.
The injury has recently become so noteworthy that it has caught the attention of Major League Baseball. Gary Green, the league’s medical director, says researching oblique injuries will be among its next focuses. “It’s becoming more and more of a common injury and it’s leading to significant loss of time away from the game,” he said.