Bending (and stretching) like Beckett

Bending (and stretching) like Beckett

You probably know what it's like to be in Josh Beckett's shoes. Not that you've spent much of the winter working on building your arm strength. But when it comes to lower back pain or spasms, more than a few of us have been sidelined for a while.

Beckett's misstep last month on the mound in Ft. Myers, Fla., was probably followed by a sharp intake of breath, both from the pitcher and his manager. Nobody wants to see their ace head to the clubhouse in the company of the team training staff. According to media reports, Beckett was feeling much better just a day later, but was less optimistic later in the week after an uncomfortable night's sleep. The right-hander currently is slated for the disabled list. The earliest he could pitch would be April 4, when the Red Sox face off against the Blue Jays.

Being patient with recovery just makes sense, according to Dr. Arun Ramappa, Chief of Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

"Baseball season is incredibly long and it can be a grind. Even though most of these players come to camp with a high level of fitness, it's hard to remain injury-free," explained Ramappa. "There are actually a lot of factors that work against their bodies."

Sometimes injuries come as a result of fatigue and overuse, and sometimes it's just a bit of bad luck. In Beckett's case there was some question about the condition of the mound, but he could have suffered the same kind of injury stepping awkwardly off a curb.

"Professional athletes have access to great training methods and treatment," said Ramappa. "Getting ready to play is a full-time job. They've used the offseason to recuperate from last season and to condition and prepare for the coming season."

Ramappa added that Spring Training is a time of reestablishing a rhythm and routine.

"The intensity level of Spring Training doesn't match that of the World Series, but that doesn't mean injuries won't happen," noted Ramappa.

Ramappa has seen injuries occur in all kinds of scenarios and offers this advice to any athlete, especially the weekend warrior whose activity level may pick up with longer days and warmer weather on the way.

"I think the most important advice is to do some exercise every day," he said. "Consistency is key. A little every day is better than two hours of softball or tennis on the weekends.

"And if you head out to the driving range and hit two buckets your first time out, there's a good chance you'll be out of commission for a couple of weeks. ... Variety in your workouts is helpful, too. Cross-training helps us avoid overuse injuries."

Ramappa also emphasizes that flexibility training is too often neglected. In other words, stretching shouldn't be reserved for the seventh inning.

"I have a buddy who says that as we age our muscles get more like beef jerky," Ramappa said. "Not necessarily a pleasant picture, but it's a reminder that we not only need to maintain our flexibility, but we have to think about eating and drinking enough before we hit the field or the court or the course."

Ramappa also recommends that everyone should do some kind of strength training. Lifting weights not only develops muscle tone, it also helps maintain bone density. Ramappa says that's key for anyone who wants to stay active as they get older.

"We don't have the opportunity to get out and enjoy ourselves every day, so we want to make the most of the chances we have," Ramappa said.

Bottom line -- staying in shape takes some work, but it's worth it if you want to play.

Gary Gillis is a contributor to MLB.com. The BID Injury Report is a regular column on redsox.com. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the official hospital of The Boston Red Sox. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.