According to the story written by Michael Schmidt, the amount of time players were out with injuries increased by 26 percent from 2006 to 2008. While the 2009 season is right at half way, the injury numbers are similar to the previous year when players spent more time on the disabled list than ever before.
Of course, the first thing I thought of, as most people should, is the notion that players are hurt more because they aren’t ‘roiding to become stronger and more resilient to the physical pressures of the game. It may not just be the human-growth hormones and steroids, or lack thereof, that may be the culprit for the injury increase. Players in the past openly used amphetamines to make it through the season. The league began testing for amphetamines, which ease pain and increase reaction time, .
“What stimulants do is create an unrealistic self-confidence for the athlete, and they think their body can do things that it, at times, really can’t,” said John Hoberman, a professor at the University of Texas, in The Times’ report. “These drugs postpone the symptoms of injuries, symptoms that restrain athletes from playing hurt. They are no longer there, and players are realizing that they can’t play hurt.”
Barry Axelrod, a player agent and treasurer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, believes the rise in injuries may be attributed players' bodies becoming weak and frail due to previous enhancers/amphetamines use.
“The side effects from the steroids has increased injuries because players were more fragile and their muscles were becoming too big, and the training was too intense for the body,” Axelrod said in the report.
And it may just be the players are protecting their bank accounts by not playing with any bit of pain. A player with a contract worth $12 million for the next three years will think twice about playing with a weird pain in his right ankle.
While I think the use (or non-use) of such drugs may have something to do with the increase in injuries, I tend to believe the problem has more to do with money than anything.
There was a day in most professional sports when the league was simply trying to make it, to be successful. And at the time, players were expected to be tough before they were expected to be good. Now it is the other way around. Players are expected to be good before they are tough.
Players were also paid a hell of a lot less back, and some of them probably had other, primary jobs. So when they played, they played to play the game. Now, the game is often secondary to the glamour of being a pro player or secondary to the big paychecks. And this has a direct effect on whether or not players are willing to grit it out and play with some pain.
Now I don’t know if injuries are increasing in other sports, like football, hockey or basketball, but I would imagine they are. The correlation between higher pay and more injuries is a reality. Prove me wrong.
I like to think of the old NFL days when players, especially linemen, would play through an important playoff game with a broken wrist, a broken nose and a patched eye. These guys were tough. They were tough because they wanted to win. They saw success in their careers through winning as a team. Now, it seems, success is completely individual and has nothing to do with whether the team is good or not. Today, winning is just the icing on the cake of a lucrative career.
Baseball, if it wants to generate tough, dedicated players, needs to take the first step and impose a salary cap. Otherwise, in 10 or 15 years we will be watching a bunch of mama’s boys who will refuse to play in the rain, play with a sore bicep and they won't play decent baseball. Is that what baseball wants? A league full of pretty boys and no grit? It’s time for players to toughen up, grow a good mustache and play some hard-nosed baseball already.