imagesIf Matt Harvey was an everyday guy pitching in a Central Park League and he opted to try conservative management after partially tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), we wouldn’t give it a second thought.

With an uncertain outcome either way – and greater overall risks with surgery – what would he have to lose? It wouldn’t be as though his livelihood depended on the result. And, after all, if rehab alone didn’t wind up being the answer, surgery could be done later. The primary downside would be time spent or, depending on how you look at it, time lost.

My point exactly. It also appears to be a point made by Mets’ management, though the choice has rightly been left to the All Star.

Harvey will now reportedly weigh Dr. James Andrews’ opinion in with the others he’s received before deciding whether to opt for right elbow surgery. Though much has been written about Harvey’s consultation with the Phillies Roy Halladay – who continued to pitch with much success after non-surgical management of his elbow issues in 2006 – it has also been reported that Halladay evidently did not have a significant tear. It appears his symptoms may have been due primarily to muscle and/or tendon pathology rather than ligament. Still, he took a calculated risk that might not have had a happy ending.

Harvey was quoted as saying that his elbow is feeling great now. That is most definitely a positive, but not only is he likely receiving treatment, the fact that he hasn’t been pitching is certainly relevant. Minus the demands pitching normally places on it, Harvey’s elbow is evidently not so acutely painful that routine activities of daily living are problematic. Though I get his ambivalence, that may not be enough of an overriding factor to justify ruling out surgery. However, we’ll soon see how the majority rules.

Mark Teixeira is one of a number of players who, with perfect hindsight, might like a time machine to reverse his chance-it-and-see versus surgery-now decision. Granted, he had a different injury, but that doesn’t make him any less of an illustration. There are a number of others who’ve had Teixeira’s experience.

It takes up to a year for a ligament to heal, and, because it is the primary stabilizer of the elbow, a weakened UCL creates stresses to other tissues in the area. Rehab will be considerable whether Harvey has surgery now or not, but the threat of having to do it twice looms large.

For more on the UCL and Tommy John surgery, take a look at this prior column on Harvey.

Follow Abby on Twitter @abcsims.


About the author

Abby serves as the Injury Expert for CBS New York where, since 2010, her Injury Breakdown Blog examines injuries in professional sports. She also blogs on health & fitness as well as sports injuries for Huffington Post, and Recovery Physical Therapy.com, where her blog earned a top ten mention for physical therapy blogs in 2012 @ WorldWideLearn.com. In a ranking of the Top 30 Healthcare Blogs for 2012, Top Masters in Healthcare also rated Abby’s blog in the top three in Physical Therapy! Abby is the founder of Fit-Screen and she welcomes your comments and questions!

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