Nothing really changed in the status of Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw from Tuesday to Wednesday, but pregame comments from manager Dave Roberts have seemed to put everyone on edge regarding the ace pitcher's back injury.
Roberts was asked if surgery was a possibility for Kershaw, who was shut down after a four-inning simulated game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday. From Doug Padilla at ESPN:
"To answer your question, yes," Roberts said. "I think that with the way it flared up, it's more of an indication that surgery is more of a possibility obviously with the way his back responded, but we're still hopeful that he will be back. When you're talking about the back, that is always an option, but we're certainly hopeful that Clayton will be back, absolutely."
It's important to note here that Roberts wasn't saying Kershaw needs surgery, but rather was using common sense. The club thought Kershaw might pitch this weekend in St. Louis, and now he's shut down until he reports no more idscomfort in his back. Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register has more:
Roberts said he has not been told anything by the Dodgers' medical staff regarding the potential for surgery but he was "inferring" the possibility was greater now.
"I haven't been told that," he said. "For me, that's just logic.
Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA adds more common sense:
To be clear, the #Dodgers are NOT saying Kershaw needs surgery at this time. Just acknowledging it's a possibility if back doesn't respond.— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) July 20, 2016
Andy McCullough went a step further, getting a spinal surgeon in New York to weigh in on the matter:
The most common procedure to fix a herniated disk is called a micro-diskectomy, explained Andrew Hecht, the chief of spinal surgery for Mount Sinai Health System and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. It is necessary when the bulging disk compresses the nerves in the spine.
"In the absence of having a lot of buttock pain or leg pain, we typically counsel athletes not to have surgery for that problem," Hecht said. "Because micro-diskectomy is most effective for people who have buttock and leg pain, not just back pain. We don’t usually do micro-diskectomy surgeries on people with back pain, only."
For a patient dealing only with back discomfort, Hecht continued, the typical treatment involves administration of anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and general rest.
This is the problem with such limited information about the injury. Kershaw has declined to speak much specifically about his back injury, and outside of updates from Roberts there have been scant details revealed. So when "Kershaw" and "surgery" are used in the same sentence, it's bound to be national news.
But just because surgery is "more of a possibility" doesn't make it a probability. Kershaw isn't necessarily close to returning to the Dodgers, and there is certainly a chance he won't pitch again this season. But in the absence of an actual medical update, it seems foolish to write off 2016 just yet.