The source of Angels star Mike Trout’s back injury has a more specific name: costovertebral dysfunction, the team said Wednesday.
While Trout still isn’t sure how he got it, he isn’t worried.
“Every day it’s improving,” he told reporters in Kansas City, Mo., after the Angels’ 4-0 win against the Royals. “I feel really good today.”
Asked if he would play again this season, Trout said, “Of course. That’s my goal. … The last two days have been a huge step.
“I think it’s a little exaggeration,” he continued, explaining that his phone was blowing up with people concerned about whether he could play again. “I appreciate all the prayer requests, but my career isn’t over.”
The condition, as sports injuries go, isn’t common. Robert Watkins, the spinal surgeon who checked on Trout, has not seen the injury very much, Angels athletic trainer Mike Frostad told reporters Wednesday.
“And for it to happen in a baseball player,” Frostad said, “we just have to take into consideration what he puts himself through with hitting, swinging on a daily basis, just getting prepared, and then also playing in the outfield.”
Dr. Neel Anand, the director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, told The Los Angeles Times that the injury term generally describes a disruption, dislocation or movement at the joint between the rib and the vertebral body.
Though uncommon, the injury is seen more in athletes in contact sports, who “get hit in the ribcage or pummeled sideways,” according to Anand.
Dr. Alan Beyer, an orthopedic surgeon and executive medical director of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute, added that repetitive overuse, like batting at the major league level, could also trigger Trout’s issue.
Beyer also explained that an injury like Trout’s doesn’t mean he’s “doomed to having this flare up every season.” It is typically treated with anti-inflammatories, rest and physical therapy and can be managed with adjustments to his training regimen.
Trout said he’ll need “to stay on top of it.”
Trout received a cortisone injection into the joint, located in the thoracic section of his spine, last Thursday. It could take two weeks to fully take effect, which could also mean another week before he’s able to start swinging a bat, according to Frostad.
“He just continues to go through his rehab progression right now. And he’s feeling better,” Frostad said. “He’s going through a good core stability program and doing a lot of cardio work. Just sort of resting the back still.”
There is still no timeline for his return, but the team is concerned about the issue’s long-term effect.
“He’s a little more upbeat today and I think he’s starting to feel like he’s getting the benefits [of the cortisone],” Frostad said, “but long term, we do have to look at this as something that he has to manage, not just through the rest of this season, but through the rest of his career.”
Trout, who will turn 31 on Aug. 7, has a follow-up appointment with Watkins on Sunday.
Trout was first sidelined with back spasms and pulled from a game July 12. Frostad explained Trout had been feeling soreness dating back to the team’s trip to Miami the week prior.
Interim manager Phil Nevin initially intended to rest him for two games. He ended up benching him for three games. Through that week, there was cautious optimism, from Frostad, Nevin and Trout, that he would be back in the starting lineup any day.
The slugger, after the Angels game against the Dodgers on July 15, was adamant he would return the next day. Trout was in the starting lineup July 16, but right before the first pitch, he was scratched because his back issue flared up again.
The next day, Trout decided he didn’t want to risk hurting his back further and pulled out of the All-Star Game. By July 18, the Angels moved him to the 10-day injured list, retroactive to July 15, with left rib cage inflammation.
In the series finale against the Royals, Janson Junk gave up four hits in five-plus innings for his first major league win. Shohei Ohtani reached base three times and drove in a run for the Angels, who won their first series since June 27-29 against the White Sox.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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