Just a day after the Los Angeles Dodgers receive good news about Corey Seager's injury, they are hit with a new injury. Max Muncy, who is enjoying a outstanding season that has him slashing .264/.418/.528 with a league-best 46 walks, has suffered the dreaded oblique strain.
Oblique strains are an injury epidemic in the MLB this year, hitting both position players and pitchers. The Dodgers coaching and training staff are hoping for a minimum 10 day IL stay for Muncy, but that is rare for oblique injuries.
Why are oblique injuries common?
The pandemic shortened season and disruptions to offseason training programs are being felt across the league. Players' bodies are not ready for the rigors of a 162 game season. Playing on a near daily basis is taxing. Throw in frequent travel - often in different time zones - and recovery becomes more challenging. Inadequate preparation and insufficient recovery are a recipe for injury.
When the body is fatigued, injury risk spikes. In fact, research shows fatigue and external variables are greater predictors of injury than mechanics. Batters and pitchers are always tinkering with mechanics, but the season is taxing and the no amount of form fine tuning can guarantee an injury free season.
Batting and pitching both require aggressive rotational movements. It's not just the throw and hit action that are challenging on the obliques - the side abdominal muscles - but the deceleration is even more challenging. With the emphasis on velocity and strikeouts for pitchers and exit velocity and homeruns for batters, rotational movements are more aggressive than ever.
Max Muncy is no exception to the rule.
What is next for Muncy?
The Los Angeles Dodgers remain one of the World Series favorites. The Muncy injury doesn't change that. While the San Fransico Giants is proving more formidable than expected, and the San Diego Padres are nipping at the Dodgers' heels, Los Angeles is not going to rush Muncy back. They have the talent and depth to absorb a 2-3 week absence.
While it hasn't been announced, it is likely Muncy received an MRI. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts expects Muncy back shortly. That suggests the MRI showed a mild strain. An MRI does not guarantee prognosis, however. Much will depend on how Muncy feels when he throws and swings a bat.
He will limit his activity to fitness work and rehabilitation exercises over the next few days. He will likely test light baseball activities in the middle of next week. If he is able to return in 10 days, a minors rehab stint is unlikely. If he is out 2-3 weeks, which is likely with an oblique strain, expect a couple of minor league games.
A previous injury is one of the top risk factors for a future injury. The Los Angeles training staff will make sure Muncy is 100% before returning to the field. They don't want this injury to linger or creep back in the playoffs.