Mark McGwire, First Base for the St. Louis Cardinals
NAME: Mark McGwire
TEAM: St. Louis Cardinals
POSITION: First base
INJURY: Strained back
OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED
Basketball: Toni Kukoc, Philadelphia 76ers; Zan Tabak, Indiana Pacers;
Baseball: Jaret Wright, Cleveland Indians; Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Mark McGwire is most famous for shattering Roger Maris' home run record of
61 homers in a season when he hit 70 in 1998. He followed up that season by
hitting 65 home runs in 1999 and also hit his 500th career home run.
At 36, he is in his 15th major league season; he played 12 seasons
for the Oakland Athletics and has been with the Cardinals for three seasons.
While in Oakland, McGwire teamed up with JosÃ© Canseco to form the "Bash
Brothers." In college, he set the Pac-10 conference single-season record
with 32 home runs. He also played on the 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Over the course of spring training, McGwire developed some pain and
discomfort in his back and, when the pain did not quickly subside, he had his
back examined. He sat out a few games and rested the back as best he could, but
mild pain persisted. On April 15, McGwire was again examined, and it was feared
that he might have suffered a disc injury, but tests were negative. He has
since returned to limited, then normal, action and playing time. McGwire
explained the situation, "When you look at the long haul of the season and
you think it's probably going to be bothersome all year, then [you] want to
take time to get it done and taken care of."
WHAT IS A STRAINED BACK?
A strained back is the aggravation and inflammation of muscles and tendons
in the back. It may be caused by overuse or repetitive strain, improper
stretching, or pulling the muscles during one particular motion. The particular
muscles affected are the paravertebral muscles that are found on either side of
the spine in the lower back. The muscles are used during everyday events such
as walking or sitting down, but are especially strained during lifting. For a
baseball player, the area is further strained by batting. During the motion of
swinging the bat, the player quickly twists or wrenches his back. The injury is
age- and weight-related. Athletes are far more likely to strain back muscles as
they grow older. But strained backs are not limited to athletes. Many people
strain back muscles while lifting heavy boxes or participating in sports, as
they grow older.
Back injuries are diagnosed using clinical exam. They are most often
detected when athletes complain of soreness, pain, and tightness in the back.
Typical strains include mild pain and almost constant discomfort. Tests such as
X-rays may be used to distinguish muscular strains from bone problems, and an
MRI or CAT scan may confirm the existence and severity of the injury.