I'll admit that I'm not a doctor. I know precious little about platelet counts, metabolic rates or white blood cells. Left to my own devices, I probably couldn't diagnose an injury or provide a very accurate prognosis. But when a player suddenly cuts more than half the time off of his recovery period following a broken bone, I do know enough to take notice.
Back on June 20th, Albert Pujols broke his radius. The fracture was non-displaced, which is about as mild as a true break can be. Even so, all signs pointed to The Machine being out for at least four weeks. The original estimate of missed time was four to six weeks, which would have had him returning to action sometime in August. That was later corroborated and discussed in the St. Louis Dispatch.
The key point in those early discussion of the injury was that doctors had specifically told Pujols to immobilize the wrist for at least four weeks.
Of course, doctors are not infallible. There could have been a misdiagnosis early on, or perhaps doctors were simply being overly cautious or unreasonably pessimistic. And every person is different, including in the way each of us heals. However, it beggars belief to see Pujols go from a one-month timetable to potentially being back before the All-Star Break.
Just think about that for a moment. We're talking about a broken bone. Not a strain, or a sprain, not soft tissue damage or general soreness. A genuine fracture. And yet, miraculously, Pujols appears nearly fit for duty.
When I first heard the staggering news, my first thought was PEDs.
I know. Shame on me for suspecting one of the game's truly elite players of drug use based only on circumstantial evidence, if we can even call it that. But I'm not alone in my suspicions. And like them or not, these doubts aren't completely unfounded.
We know from others players and former players, including former Yankee and Astro Andy Pettitte, that performance enhancing drugs are used in attempts to recover from injury. There is very little medical research to support the idea that PEDs could help lessen recovery time, but that lack of evidence hasn't dissuaded athletes in the past. And, unofficially, rapid recovery time is one of the alleged benefits of such drugs.
So to see Pujols go from missing most of the summer to barely serving out his fully allotted time on the DL has to raise eyebrows. Like I said, there could have been a misdiagnosis, or perhaps he's not actually as healed as we've been told. Maybe, as the papers would have us believe, Albert Pujols really does have superhuman recuperative powers to go along with his baseball prowess.
But I can't swallow that explanation. In fact, when I first heard the news of Pujols' potential return, it brought to mind some lines from My Cousin Vinny. Remember the scene where Vinny is questioning the witness Mr. Tipton on the stand? (Thanks to imdb.com.)
Vinny: How long was [the defendants] in the store for?
Mr. Tipton: 5 minutes.
Vinny: 5 minutes? How do you know? Did you look at your watch?
Mr. Tipton: No.
Vinny: Oh, oh, oh, you testified earlier that you saw the boys go into the store, and you had just begun to cook your breakfast and you were just getting ready to eat when you heard the shot.
Mr. Tipton: That's right.
Vinny: So obviously it takes you 5 minutes to cook your breakfast.
Mr. Tipton: That's right.
Vinny: That's right, so you knew that. You remember what you had?
Mr. Tipton: Eggs and grits.
Vinny: Eggs and grits. I like grits, too. How do you cook your grits? Do you like them regular, creamy or al dente?
Mr. Tipton: Just regular I guess.
Vinny Gambini: Regular. Instant grits?
Mr. Tipton: No self respectin' Southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits.
Vinny: So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you 5 minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: I don't know, I'm a fast cook I guess.
Vinny: I'm sorry I was all the way over here I couldn't hear you did you say you were a fast cook, that's it?
Mr. Tipton: Yeah.
Vinny: Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than anywhere else on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don't know.
Vinny: Well, I guess the laws of physics cease to exist on top of your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?
To close the loop on this analogy, am I to believe that bones heal faster in Albert Pujols' body than anywhere else on the face of the earth? Do the laws of medicine cease to apply in his skeleton? Because that really would make him a machine.
I'm not tossing out any accusations. I would have nothing to back them up. But I will continue to wonder, and that in itself is a shame. Over the past couple of decades there have been enough confirmed drug users that an unusual event of this magnitude practically demands these questions.