Mike Trout's Back Injury Is Minor Now, but Do LA Angels Need to Worry?

Will Carroll@injuryexpertSports Injuries Lead WriterJune 3, 2014

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout dives for a fly ball against the Seattle Mariners in a baseball game Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

There's no better player in the major leagues than Mike Trout. About the only person who can beat Trout at this stage is himself. The Los Angeles Angels haven't had a lot of luck with health over the past couple years, struggling at all levels after a generational change in their once top-rated staff. Trout's back issues that kept him off the field this weekend aren't serious now, but the Angels will have to make sure that this doesn't become something more.

Trout is scheduled to return to the Angels lineup on Tuesday after missing several games with upper-back spasms. In and of themselves, the spasms are painful, but not serious. The goal is to find the proximate cause and to address it. It can be a minor muscular injury or a more concerning underlying issue. The trick for the medical staff is not just to treat the symptoms, but to understand the cause.

If the symptoms are just treated, the condition will inevitably return, and it will likely have worsened. The wear and tear that any player with Trout's physicality puts on his spine, both linearly and rotationally, is brutal. Maintaining the structures and the supporting musculature is key, especially if Trout thickens as normal.

Compare Trout to the body type of Matt Holliday, a similar player, from his rookie season to present day. Holliday is still productive at age 34, but he's also dealt with severe lower-back spasms that have taken him out of the playoffs, an indication of just how serious the issue is and how difficult it is to push past. 

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Angels dealt with a similar situation just a few years back. Vladimir Guerrero had severe knee and back issues, which were largely blamed on the Montreal turf, but the Angels medical staff of Ned Bergert and Dr. Lewis Yocum were able to get Guerrero on a maintenance program that kept him strong and healthy for years. If Trout can do this now, he'll be ahead of the game, though it is worrisome that someone his age is already having back issues. 

The downside here is that Bergert was replaced a few years ago and Dr. Yocum passed away. While the new medical staff is qualified, it has some big shoes to fill and there's been some loss of history there. With Dr. Orr Limpisvasti around, quality of care won't be an issue if the current Angels management doesn't interfere.

The Angels are now heavily invested in Trout's immediate future to the tune of nearly $150 million. Trout has to head the list of players that they must keep on the field in order to succeed, even ahead of Albert Pujols. With Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, Wilson and others all needing maintenance, the Angels medical staff is going to face challenge after challenge in the coming years.