Daily Box Score 7/1: Sports Medicine From Hernias to Transhumanism

First there was OBP. Then defense became the new OBP. Now people are wondering what's next.  It could be the incredible wealth of information from Pitch F/X and Hit F/X, but this information is made available freely on the web, and is even analyzed for all to see. The availability of this information makes it a public good--it is impossible to charge teams for using it, and one team's using it does not keep any other team from using it. This makes it tough to gain an advantage.

What about medical technology and information? Trainers and doctors are in the employ of one team at a time. On that note, today's box score is about medicine in baseball.

The baseball playing life has not always been the healthiest, and Colby Rasmus is learning that lesson the hard way. During spring training, Rasmus experienced stomach pain that has led him to change his ways.  Now, he has swapped dip for yogurt. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes an interesting look at the measures Rasmus is taking to keep from aggravating a hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernias can lead to chest pain and heartburn, and dipping tobacco and eating big meals before sleep were hurting Rasmus on and off the field.  So for now, Rasmus is "just pounding yogurt."

Former BA Minor League Player of the Year Jeff Francis seemed poised for stardom following the 2007 postseason. But in 2008, Francis struggled in just 21 starts, posting an ERA of 5.01. This past February, he underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery and as a result will miss the 2009 season. That doesn't mean he hasn't been working. Alan Schwarz has followed Francis during his rehab. Francis was a physics major at the University of British Columbia, and has been fascinated by the biomechanical aspects of his recovery. But this knowledge can be a distraction on the field.  Being effective

means turning over his brain — to the instincts Francis shares with all pitchers and away from the interests he shares with few.

R.A. Dickey is one of those guys who just couldn't get baseball out of his system. Born without the ulnar collateral ligament, Dickey was forced to scrap his way through the minor leagues as he learned baseball's dark arts, reserved for those who have fallen off the anointed path. Call him him the Freak with the Thing, the name he (briefly) gave his infant knuckleball while pitching in Texas.

Now with the TwinsDickey has finally found both consistent playing time and success in the major leagues. According to Minnesota Star-Tribune writer Jim Souhan, it was Orel Hershiser who first suggested to Dickey he try the knuckler. Nevermind for the moment that this article has already been written at least two times before; Dickey changes teams so often no one is the wiser. Besides, it never gets old.

Dickey says of his lack of a UCL,

It's really miraculous, by a lot of different accounts, and I feel it's been a real blessing to not have to worry about having a surgery that keeps a lot of other guys out. 

Like, most recently, A's rookie pitcher Josh Outman, who yesterday underwent Tommy John surgery.

Finally, the question of how medical advances might impart an unfair advantage will only become more important as medical technology improves. Recently, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment for Takashi Saito has caused some to cry foul. In a prescient 2006 medical journal article, Mark Hamilton looks at the range of elective surgeries athletes may undergo to gain an advantage, from LASIK to sex change. He concludes with a meditation on transhumanism.

Transhumanism, originally coined by Julian Huxley, is the belief that life enhancing technology can aid humans to develop to higher levels of being.

Which procedures are okay and which ones cross the line, in your mind?

Please send any links you would like to see included in the Daily Box Score to btbslinkage [shift-2] gmail [period] com.

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