NAME: Woody Williams
TEAM: San Diego Padres
POSITION: Starting pitcher
INJURY:Aneurysm in pitching arm
OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED
Woody Williams is a starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres. At 33, he is an eight-year veteran. Over the last four seasons, Williams has found his niche as a starting pitcher, going 34-37 over that span. This season, Williams is 3-2 with a 5.21 ERA after starting six games. While at the University of Houston, he earned All-Regional honors as a shortstop.
Although performing well for the Padres throughout the start of the season, Williams suffered from numbness and poor circulation in his pitching hand. This began to concern team trainers and eventually team doctors, and it was found that Williams had a tiny blood clot in his forearm. This prompted testing that showed an aneurysm that affected a blood vessel just below his armpit.
WHAT IS AN ANEURYSM?
An aneurysm is an outpouching of a blood vessel. In this instance, the diseased vessel becomes misshapen and can no longer properly carry blood. This can lead to blood clotting, and the vessel can breach. It can develop due to specific trauma or a weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. As a pitcher, Williams was slightly prone to developing this type of injury due to the repetitive strain and stress that is put on the tissue and blood circulatory system of the shoulder. The aneurysm was found in an artery called the posterior circumflex humeral artery, the exact same place from which Dave Cone had an aneurysm removed four years ago. This artery forms near the armpit and supplies several muscles around the shoulder.
Aneurysms are diagnosed by arteriograms (also called angiograms). This is a scan that shows the structure and condition of blood vessels in the body. Doctors suspected Williams had an aneurysm because he had felt numbness and lack of circulation in his fingertips, and the discovery of a small blood clot in his forearm prompted immediate testing.
This type of injury is treated exclusively with surgery. For the patient to regain feeling as well as circulation, and to decrease the risk of future clotting, the aneurysm must be removed. In the procedure, the affected or diseased portion of the vessel is removed from the body, and the remaining ends of the blood vessel are fused together. Often, a blood vessel graft is used to spread across the gap made by the removal of tissue.
This injury cannot be prevented.
As this injury is similar to that of David Cone, it is reasonable to expect a similar recovery. Williams will probably miss about 4-6 months. Over this time, he will be healing from the surgery and then beginning the slow process of regaining the strength and mobility needed to pitch at the major league level. Once physically mended and suitably recovered from surgery, he will take part in a rehabilitation program that begins with throwing from flat ground. As he builds stamina and can throw harder and for a longer period of time, he will begin to throw from the mound. Once physically fit, he will begin a minor league rehab assignment, and after working through the ranks of the minors, he could pitch for the Padres by September.
Because the surgery entails grafting and there can be residual damaged tissue left in the vessel structure, Williams will have a slightly greater risk of developing a future aneurysm. However, once he returns, he will likely suffer no ill effects of the injury and may pitch better due to increased feeling and strength in his fingers.