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MLB’s oblique injury epidemic may be traced to creatine

Apr 24, 2011, 9:38 AM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays' Longoria reacts in front of Baltimore Orioles catcher Wieters in St. Petersburg Reuters

If we had to identify the three most common themes of the 2011 season thus far, it’d read something like this: rainouts, flu viruses and oblique injuries.

The first can be explained rather easily. Spring is a wet season in almost every part of the baseball-watching world and North America has been pounded by several major storm systems this year.

The second is a little trickier, but influenza is influenza and it tends to spread pretty quickly.

The third? … well … listen to this:

According to Christian Red of the New York Daily News, sports physician Dr. Lewis Maharam has discovered that the upswing in oblique strains across Major League Baseball can probably be traced back to the legal dietary supplement creatine.

Creatine adds water molecules to muscle fibers, which can cause those fibers to separate.

“This makes for easier muscle tears and slows the repair process, leaving them on injured reserve longer,” Maharam says. “It is because of these side effects that professionals for a long time went away from creatine when they could use anabolics and HGH. Now that testing is stronger, I have seen a trend back toward the safer creatine.”

Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Jason Bay, Angel Pagan, J.A. Happ, Ronny Paulino, Fred Lewis, Jon Garland, J.J. Hardy and Erick Aybar have all been plagued by oblique issues in one form or another this season. And they’re far from alone.

Creatine, at least to this point, is not banned by baseball, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL or the NCAA.

  1. sknut - Apr 24, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    Is there specific reason for creatine to be banned? I mean if they do ban it, won’t players move on to the next closest substance. Its one of those things that players need to really understand the consequences of taking this stuff.

  2. captaincougar - Apr 24, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    And this is why physicians should stick to diagnosis and treatment, and leave the pathology to people who to truly understand it.

    • Old Gator - Apr 24, 2011 at 10:05 AM

      That’s…uh…an incoherent statement, to put it politely. Physicians perform pathology routinely when they develop a diagnosis. Pathologists have to wait upon an attending physician to involve them in the diagnostic process. Lab pathology is just one tool physicians employ. Pathology isn’t performed solely on dead tissues; it isn’t an autopsy. A sports physician especially is trained to recognize medical problems that occur when the human body is especially active or pushed to extremes of activity – moreso than a laboratory pathologist, certainly. And they’re more than qualified to recognize patterns of injury and patterns of usage of nutritional supplements that overlap those patterns of injury.

  3. droopyyydog1 - Apr 24, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    And what about the hip issues that plagued the majors ( ARod and Mike Lowell ) after the new and improved testing ? Umm I wonder….

  4. joeflaccosunibrow - Apr 24, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Add Baltimore ace Brian Matusz to the list.

    Maybe him and JJ Hardy are sharing supplements the way Palmeiro and Tejada did back in the day.

    That’s true team chemistry.

  5. genericcommenter - Apr 24, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    It’s funny that creatine is being called “safer” and then being blamed for all these injuries. I guess it’s just a convoluted way to fit the whole “dangerous performance enhancer” narrative.

    It would seem crazy to ban creatine, but it was stupid to ban things like the ECA stack, too. Almost all of these things are objectively “safer” than tylenol- if you go by statistics like death and injury.

    For some people, Flintstones vitamins would be considered dangerous and “cheating,” based on nothing other than their own irrational opinions on competition.

  6. jstrizzle - Apr 24, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    It is great this physician has identify those who used to used steroids for us. He is also implying that in general all baseball players use steroids regularly until 2002 when they implemented the new testing. My question is why wouldn’t we see more injuries in the prior 9 years? I guess it must take 9 years for these injuries to materialize and now players are gonna start dropping like flies.

    Also, in a backwards way he is implying that basically nobody used creatine before 2002 which I also feel is a fallacy. This is basically pointless conjecture.

    • paperlions - Apr 24, 2011 at 12:13 PM

      That isn’t what he said…he said he has seen a trend back toward creatine use, implying that he has first hand knowledge of this phenomenon. Then he said that one of the side effects is an increase in muscle tears, such as the oblique strains (a strain is a minor tear) being reported recently. It isn’t like the guy called up the reporter, he was asked what he thought and he answered the questions….being a former president of the NY chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, he probably has both some knowledge and expertise on the subject.

      • jstrizzle - Apr 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        Oh I am sure he is a very smart guy and I am not arguing that. Just saying he doesn’t work with each of these players individually and shouldn’t make a “probable” diagnosis off of that. It still doesn’t explain why this hasn’t happened for the last 9 years when the new drug testing was implemented. Unless he is implying that creatine use was non very likely before this year. And that is the part of the argument that I am uncomfortable with. Their are hundreds and hundreds of other baseball players in college and the pros and I am sure a good amount use creatine. I guess I have no facts on that but I didn’t see any facts on his “trend back toward creatine use” either.

        11 people with a similar injury out of all the baseball players is really a small percentage. It just happens to be that they are some big names.

  7. paperlions - Apr 24, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    It surprises me that people still take creatine, the science behind its benefits is shaky and the benefits measured in those few study were too small to effect performance of a baseball player. A good diet and well designed exercise program will show much greater benefits than these OTC snake oils…and the good diet and workout programs don’t have any negative side-effects.
    .
    Since when is two hip injuries in ball players in their mid-30s a “plague”? I had no idea that two cases in less than a decade qualified as a plague these days.

    • clydeserra - Apr 24, 2011 at 12:55 PM

      I have always though the “he is a star athlete, he won’t put anything in his body he does know about” was bogus. if what you asy is true about creatin that furthers my suspicions that they are as dumb as high school educated gym rats.

      Oh, wait, they are.

    • ygung - Apr 25, 2011 at 12:29 PM

      When most people think of creatine they think of improving strength and performance, but a lot of people that take creatine actually take it for the recovery benefits. I’d assume A-rod was more so taking it for recovery.

  8. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Apr 24, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Where oh where are those that cry, “cheaters”? Oh, wait, they won’t start until creatine is banned.

  9. ernestbynershands - Apr 24, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    Maybe they all hurt themsleves doing side crunches!?!?
    Creatine is to blame for oblique strains just as fuel injector cleaner or armor all are to blame to drunken driving.
    Examine training methods, throwing and hitting mechanics, and encourage athletes to rest and recover.
    Also, maybe these guys are getting evaluated more precisely when they get hurt, thus the specific diagnosis. (See Lis Franc fractures.)

  10. hateradeonrocks - Apr 24, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    talk about jumping to conclusions. What the writer has now done is accuse everyone with an oblique injury of cheating. way to substantiate claims.

    • lbehrendt - Apr 25, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      Not “cheating”. Creatine is not a banned substance, not by baseball, not by WADA.

  11. BC - Apr 25, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    I’d believe it. In a second. This is happening 20 times more than it did 20 years ago, when it was called a “ribcage” injury. Somethings up.

  12. ezwriter69 - Apr 25, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Seems totally illogical that the only muscle anyone would tear is the oblique… and, how can a doctor make that sort of claim without presenting data to back it up? How do we know how many oblique strains there were in past years, where’s the data? It’s easy to say that it seems like we’ve had a lot of strains, but show us some numbers… this is unscientific, unsupported, speculation, and it directly impugns guys who at this point don’t deserve it. To me, this is irresponsible to the point of being libel.

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