by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The injury sustained to Bryce Harper’s left thumb on a headfirst slide into third base last Friday proved worst-case scenario for the Nationals, who will likely be without their 21-year-old slugger until July.

Harper underwent surgery Tuesday to reconnect a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his hand, and now, many wonder whether the perceived ‘hustle’ injury could have been avoided.

He seems to be establishing an injury track record in his short career — he’s missed approx. 44 regular season games since his April 2012 Major League debut; 67 if you include his Minor League service time, from 11 non-illness related injuries, according to figures from Baseball Prospectus.

Against conventional wisdom, injury expert Will Carroll reports, citing a study conducted in 2000 — which measured the incidence of injury in college baseball and softball, stemming from headfirst versus feet-first slides, using samples of 1000 slides and 1000 games for each sport — that headfirst actually result in less injury frequency than feet-first slides.

Regardless, Carroll would still like to see Harper ease off the gas a bit upon his return.

“You would love to be able to see him dial it back,” Carroll told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Tuesday.

“Ninety percent of Bryce Harper is about 150 percent of most players, so is he going to be able to do that and maintain what he needs in his head,” he said. “For him, if you tell a player to dial it back, it’s tough.

“One of the toughest things for pitchers in rehab, is you’ll say ‘ah, throw it 50 percent … throw it 75 percent.’ They never know what it is. It’s pretty funny. You say throw it 75 percent and they throw 90, so you have to say 50 to get them to go 75.

“It’s tough for players to consciously control their effort. They play a certain way; they’re wired that way. Like you said, Harper is a violent player; he’s a quick player; he’s a fast-twitch kind of player, so yea, his style of play is going to make it tougher for him to dial it back, than say, somebody like Mike Trout, who makes everything look so easy.”

It seems a can’t-win situation for Harper, who was benched by manager Matt Williams in an April 19 game against the Cardinals for his “lack of hustle.”


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