We hear the word "strain" an awful lot during the season, don't we?
Albert Pujols has strained his obliques or Derek Jeter his hamstring. But what does it mean? How do strains affect my lineup?
In regards to hitter injuries, due to their unpredictable nature and their tendency to run the full spectrum, anything is possible. On a positive note, there are always some constants that appear every season. Whether at the plate or in the field, sliding into second or simply rounding it, some player somewhere will get hurt and strain something.
One of the easiest ways to strain a muscle is to place a sudden demand on it when is not properly warmed up. In hitters, the most common strained muscles tend to be in the legs, usually the hamstrings or quadriceps. These large muscles, on the back of the thigh and front of thigh respectively, generate the power used when running. Also in play are the calf muscles, who with all three in concert, work to do everything. When you consider all the starting and stopping, the bursts of speed and sudden jerks, they are taxed enormously,
In combination with the legs, at the plate hitters may also strain are their obliques. These muscles assist in rotating a hitter's core and are most at risk during power swings.
When something is diagnosed as a strain, it is assigned a grade level based on the trauma level and the extent of injury.
Mild strains are categorized as Grade I. They suggest that there is either minimal damage to the muscle fibers or none at all. However, they concede that microtrauma has occurred and as a result, inflammation and/or pain is possible. The injured athlete may have tightness in the muscle and will probably be able to walk normally, but they will be aware of some discomfort. The player may miss no time on the field, but at most no more than a couple of weeks.
Grade II is a moderate strain. There is definitive damage to the muscle itself and applied pressure increases pain. Inflammation is highly likely but not always visually noticeable. The players gait is usually affected and a limp, however slight, may even be present. This particular type of strain very problematic as from start to finish, it has the widest possible range of time lost.
A Grade III strain is severe. Walking is affected drastically and use of walking aids, such as crutches may be needed. Usually a complete tear of the muscle has occurred. Even if a few fibers remain intact, the muscle has been compromised. In the majority of cases, this type of injury will require surgery to repair.
There are a multiple theories for the reasons as why strains actually occur and several variables come into play. Conditioning appears to be one factor in maintaining better overall health. The usual course of treatment consists of rest, the key being time to allow proper healing.
The majority of the time, teams rarely divulge the extent of an athlete's muscle injury. Interestingly enough, with the exception of complete tears, they usually can't precisely determine the cause either.
So pay close attention to the words you hear used when announcers or sports reporters describe a player's injury. No doubt there will be key words used that will give you a head start on understanding what is really going on.
Elliott Saltares is a sports pundit, fan, and contributing writer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on twitter @elliottsaltares.