2017 Brad Miller | The Process Report

2017 Brad Miller <<<< 2016 Brad Miller

I began writing this post before we received the news that Brad Miller required core muscle surgery. We at least now have a cause to the poor performance in 2017. Rather than speculate what went wrong, as was the initial intention of this piece, I want to focus on what we can expect during Miller’s recovery based on the rehabilitation process of other hitters who have recently had the same surgery.

Miller first went on the disabled list with an abdominal strain on May 18th and came back on June 3rd. The return was short-stayed as he returned to the disabled list four days later with a groin strain and finally returned for good on July 6th.

Miller was not even the only player who required the surgery in 2017. Yasmany Tomas of Arizona had the surgery in late August to correct a core muscle issue that had kept him on the disabled list since June 2nd. Non-surgical methods were not able to fix the problem so Tomas and the club succumbed to surgery after two plus months of rehab. Like Miller, Tomas had a big power year in 2016 as he hit a surprising 31 homers more than tripling his 2015 output. Unlike Tomas, Miller tried to play through his issues and did not make the decision to have surgery until well after the season.

There have been a number of notable players that have suffered through the same problem in recent years. Justin Verlander had a delayed start to his 2014 season after suffering a core muscle injury during his offseason workouts. He only missed two starts, but the change to his schedule was a contributing factor to the second-worst statistical season of his illustrious career.  Teammate Miguel Cabrera also had a core muscle injury repaired at the end of 2013 that lingered into the summer of 2014 as he hit a then season-low 25 home runs.  Brett Gardner required surgery to repai a core muscle injury in mid October of 2014. Denard Span had a delayed start to the 2015 season due to a core muscle surgery and  Robinson Cano waited until the end of the 2015 season to have his surgery done. Cano’s overall season was disappointing, but his second half numbers leading up to the surgery were much better than his struggling first half.

Miller is the most recent Ray to have the surgery but it was was not too long ago that Brad Boxberger suffered through the same injury. He missed a significant amount of time in 2016 due to the initial injury in Spring Training and a re-injuring himself in his 2016 debut on May 31st. The other thing Miller and Boxberger have in common is that the same doctor, Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia, repaired each player’s core muscle injury. You can listen to Dr. Meyers talk more about core muscle injuries here along as he and Stephania Bell of ESPN were guests on a podcast hosted by the Move Forward Physical Therapy Group

While “core muscle injury” seems like a new phrase, it is a more accurate description of what was often identified as a sports hernia within the last decade. MoveForwardPT.com describes core muscle injuries as:

A core muscle injury usually occurs where the abdominal muscles attach in your pelvis. There is no protrusion of organs, but there are tears in tendons and muscles, such as those surrounding the hip. This makes the term “hernia” a misnomer, as the term hernia means when organs from your abdomen come out through spaces, such as the inguinal canal. Nerve irritation can also occur, contributing to the uncomfortable symptoms.

The site goes on to explain that repetitive hip and pelvic motions typical in sports can cause injury to the lower abdominal areas as well as other factors such as imbalance in the hip and abdominal muscles, lack of conditioning to the abdominal muscles, as well as aggressive exercises. We can only speculate on Miller for most of that, but swinging a bat day in and day out over the course of a season, especially one where said player has a breakout year in the power department, could have been in play with Miller in 2016.

Symptoms related to core muscle injuries include (from MoveForwardPT.com): sharp or stabbing pain in the groin region that occur with running, pain that is isolated to one side of the groin, and pain that radiates to the inner thigh. Miller initially went on the disabled list with a lower abdominal strain on May 16th after he felt something tweak in his lower abdomen as he ran to first during a base hit. He returned to action on June 3rd, but went back to the disabled list on June 7th with a right groin strain and remained out until July 7th and resumed play through the end of the season. It is worth noting that both injuries noted either pain in the groin region with running or pain isolated to one side of the groin.

The Vincera Institute, where Dr. Meyers practices, describes core muscle surgery repairs as “Surgical intervention for core muscle injuries entails re-suturing the muscle attachments to the bones and adjacent ligaments in order to provide stability to the pubic joint.” In an interview with the Philadelpha Inquirer, Dr. Meyers describes how he performs the surgery and also states rehabilitation from the surgery is generally three to eight weeks but can last longer depending upon the severity of the injury and surgery performed. Physical therapy begins within a week and Dr. Meyers states the surgery has had a 95 to 96 percent success rate over the past 25 years. (Editors note; I was quoted an 85 percent success rate for my most recent SLAP repair surgery in July of 2017. I will find out this coming Thursday if I am an unfortunate member of the 15 percent club). Miller should be able to resume his off-season workout schedule by the new year and should be on track to start the season in late March assuming there are no setbacks based off the average time table presented in the interview.

Brad Miller remains in Tampa Bay at this time, despite rumors of his availability the past few weeks. It is tough to trade a player coming off an injury and it equally as tough to ignore what he did in 2016 when fully healthy. Even some of the issues with the inconsistent defense in the field could have been related to this core trouble. The club has lost Logan Morrison‘s bat and the odds of finding cheap power like that again are quite high. Rather than speculate on the open market for another 25+ home run bat, they could just keep a bat they have that has recently shown what he is capable of when healthy while continuing to search for his best fit in the field.