Duke Helps Keep Reds Healthy
DURHAM, N.C. -- As the Cincinnati Reds march toward a
possible World Series berth, work by the Duke Sports
Performance Program during the past year could help players
suffer fewer injuries during their grueling 162-game
Duke exercise physiologist Mike Huff led a group of
researchers from Duke Sports Medicine who tested and monitored
more than 150 players on the Reds roster and their minor league
teams during two-day exams during spring training before last
season and the current season.
In their analysis of the 2001 campaign, the researchers
found that almost 40 percent of the injuries reported by
players could have been prevented or at least minimized, with
the bulk of the injuries involving muscle or ligament strains,
as well as joint sprains.
"There are some injuries that can't be avoided, but others,
like pulled hamstrings or torn rotator cuffs, may be avoided or
minimized by proper training techniques," Huff said. "After
evaluating each individual player, we work with the team to
design tailored exercise programs for the players to follow
during the season and the off-season."
While an important aspect of the Duke program is injury
prevention, another equally important aspect, especially for
the Reds, is maximizing each player's athletic potential. The
Reds, like all other professional sports teams, invest a great
deal of resources in the development of their players.
"Our No. 1 focus is keeping our players healthy, and that's
why we have the special two-day physical examinations during
spring training," said Jim Thrift, director of research and
development for the Reds. "It's a real challenge, considering
that we play 162 games in 180 days all over the country in
widely varying conditions.
"Now more than ever, given how much we invest in players and
their development, it is important that they maintain a certain
level of fitness throughout the entire year," he added. "Mike
and his staff, along with our own team trainers and physicians,
are helping us do that."
During spring training, Huff worked with the players during
a two-day period. Specifically, the Duke researchers focused
their attention on the range of rotation of the trunk, an
approach to sports medicine that is unique to the Duke program,
Huff said. They also focused on such factors as height and
weight, to see if these factors had any effect on the rate of
"Trunk rotation is probably more important in baseball than
any other sport," Huff explained. "It is involved in all
aspects of play -- from batting to throwing to fielding. The
trunk transfers the power and energy from the legs to the arms.
It is a very dynamic process in baseball."
So far, the testing has shown that a "normal" range of
motion for the trunk ranges from 60 to 80 degrees, so they paid
extra attention to those players whose range of motion fell
outside that range. For those falling beneath the range, Huff
prescribed exercises that would increase a player's
flexibility, while those above the range would typically be
given a series of exercises designed to increase stability and
While the researchers assumed that injuries would tend to
occur more frequently in those with less flexibility, the
"We found that the guys who tended to be hypermobile were
injured more frequently than we expected," he explained. "The
reason is probably a stability issue, so the key to our
approach is designing a regimen with the right balance of
stability, strength and flexibility for that individual
During the 2001 season, the Reds sent monthly injury reports
to the Michael Krzyzewski Human Performance Research Laboratory
(the K Lab), which Huff entered into a database. They will do
so again this year.
"This way, we can keep up with players and if we see that
someone is having a specific problem, like shoulder, elbow or
lower pains, we can work with the team to design an
intervention based on what we know about the player," Huff
Other findings from the 2001 report include:
* Of the strain and sprain injuries, the shoulder accounted
for 24 percent of injuries, followed by the back (13.5
percent), the ankle (10.4 percent) and the knee (10.4
* By position, 34.7 percent of injuries occurred to
infielders, with pitchers accounting for 33.3 percent,
outfielders 21.8 percent and catchers 7.5 percent.
* In terms of activity that caused the injury,
pitching/throwing accounted for 31.3 percent, batting and
running each accounted for 17.7 percent, fielding 15.7 percent
and sliding 7.5 percent.
Interestingly, according to Huff, there were significantly
fewer injuries (52) during the second half of the season when
compared to the first (95). This change was primarily due to
the type of player and activity -- pitchers were injured most
often in the beginning of the season, while infielders were
injured the most in the second. In terms of activities,
pitching/throwing injuries predominated early in the season,
while running injuries occurred more often later.
"While we hope that the reduction of injuries during the
second half of the season were a result of our tailored
exercise programs, there are probably other factors involved as
well," Huff said.
One factor could be weather, since the Reds spring training
occurs in Florida, where it is warm, and the weather for the
early slate of games -- especially those played at night ? is
much cooler. Also, the increased number of injuries in the
early part of the season argues for a more rigorous off-season
training program, according to Huff.
"On average, it takes four and half years to bring a player
from the minor leagues to the major leagues," Thrift said. "If,
through proper training, we can get them here in three and half
years, we all benefit -- the player achieves his potential
sooner, and we can field the best team possible.