The last thing Mets fans wanted to hear about was another injury suffered by a player this season, let alone another injury to one of the Mets' young stud pitchers. Unfortunately, the Mets continue to have bad luck with their starting pitching staff as Steven Matz has been diagnosed with a partial left lat tear. This article will provide an inside look on this injury and its potential impact on Matz.
What is a lat tear?
The Latissimus Dorsi (aka "lat") is a huge muscle located on the lower part of your back and inserts onto the top of your humerus (the bone that the arm connects to your shoulder). The lats acts to extend, adduct (bring towards the body), and internally rotate (turn towards the body) the shoulder.
Why is the lat important for pitching?
Primarily, the lat helps generate force when the arm is pulled all the way back and begins to move forward before releasing the ball. Before the ball is released, the lat is stretched out completely before contracting (and therefore shortening the muscle) when starting to throw the ball. A possible (not definite) scenario of how Matz injured his lat was that he outstretched his arm too far while he was cocking the ball back before beginning to throw it. The repetition in the throwing motion for over 100 pitches can create enough accumulation of microtears in the muscle to cause an actual tear.
Hitting does not seem to contribute to the injury since Matz bats righty and the left lat is not necessarily involved with swinging the bat.
When can we expect Matz to rejoin the rotation?
Matz is expected to be reevaluated in three weeks, which indicates that he likely has a Grade 1 strain (a muscle tear). When it comes to strains and grades, Grade 1 is the least severe and means the muscle is only slightly torn. This news is encouraging because if Matz gets cleared in three weeks, then he can probably return to the Mets after a week or two of pitching bullpen sessions and minor league games. He has the benefit of the All-Star break, during which time the training staff can focus primarily on his treatment (as opposed to treating minor day-to-day injuries of other players as well).
Matz's rehab already began with a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection. Essentially, it is an injection of the person's own blood to the injured area to boost the blood supply in that area. More blood supply suggests faster healing as the blood carries several nutrients and proteins necessary for tissue healing. Current scientific literature has yet to prove its effectiveness with a faster recovery time, however with little risk involved, why not give it a shot?
With regard to the rest of his rehabilitation, the athletic trainers and physical therapists will work to prep his body to return to the majors and still sling 95 in the seventh inning. That means his rehab will work to strengthen any weak muscles and loosen any tight muscles that may have resulted from disuse.
Assuming there are no setbacks in his recovery, I expect to see Matz return around the second week of August and help the Mets make a late-season playoff push. As always, feel free to leave feedback and/or ask more about Matz's injury in the comments below.