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Wednesday 21st Feb 2018

Anyone notice the spate of appendectomies in pro athletes lately?  It seems to be chic.

Rotator cuffs or hamate bones? Forget about it. Even Tommy John surgery, for example is passé, and apparently no more serious to a ballplayer than a heart transplant is for the rest of us. And, if you remember back 30 years--or the name Dr. Christian Barnard--you might also recall that heart transplants were dicey things not that long ago. It’s the same with appendectomies.

I have actually had one, though the reality is the surgeon was no particular hurry to remove my appendix. The good Doctor who was working under my hood was more concerned with my diseased intestine, and my appendix simply went the route of the rest of my damaged innards.

Actually, I have undergone seven separate surgeries for the removal of my intestines, largely thanks to Crohns disease, which I have lived with since 1963, when I was 10. So, I even know, first-hand, how tough that surgery can--or at least used to--be.

The thing about appendices is that we are not totally sure what they do. It’s kind of like our vestigial tail which is, or was right there in the hollow spot of our tailbone right around the top of our butts. Apparently that is where our tails were before we kissed some of the links to brother mammals away, and walked upright, thus trading a potentially cool appendage for trips to the chiropractor.

Just as we no longer need tails, neither do we need our appendix. My understanding--or rather that of the researchers I read--is the appendix used to help man digest funky raw meat we ate in the imagined time of us as Fred Flintstones, wearing a leopard skin and wielding a big club. I guess it helped; much like a dog can eat rotten meat, or deal with the bone meal in canned dog food without falling over. For these things--rotten meat and bone meal--are not nearly so forgiving for us Homo sapiens. I mean, if you have a dog--and I have three--you know what your dog eats, or worse will put in his or her mouth, and the fact that my dogs are not dizzyingly sick half the time they are alive kind of amazes me.

We don't really need our appendix, though, so if a doctor has a chance to take it out, I think they usually do, providing they are operating in our body cavity, trying to fix something. The reason they like to take the appendix out is that it can get infected, and then rupture, which is not good. That is because we all have this membrane between our skeleton structure--in this case our chest--and our internal organs. This membrane kind of holds all our interior parts--you know the liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, those guys and their friends--together behind our bones and that keeps our organs from moving around. That membrane is called the pertain.

Well, when the appendix--or any of our internal organs for that matter--gets infected, and goes untreated, eventually a buildup of pus occurs, and eventually that organ will rupture. If that happens, the infection spreads to the pertain, and once that happens, all the rest of one's internal parts get the infection, and pretty much that is that for life as we know it.

Now, it is pretty difficult to not notice something like this going on in your body. I know, for it has happened to me, though not because of my appendix, but rather because of my Crohns disease. For one of the potential side effects of abdominal surgery is once they mess around under the pertain, your inner parts can adhere or stick to one another. They can also wrap around themselves, which is what happened to me, for my intestines got wrapped around itself, and it ruptured in me, and I had peritonitis.

I can tell you it really, really hurts, and I am really lucky to have survived it. And that the recuperative period for such surgery last time I had it--back in 1989--was a good month of taking it easy before you could sneeze with without fear, and laugh, and move around comfortably. And, it took a year before you really felt like your regular old self again.

So, I was kind of amused when Adam Dunn, who had an appendectomy a couple of days ago, said he would be ready to play on Friday. Yeah. Right. Even the way the operation is now--done with lasers, so much more cleanly that back when Theodoric of York hacked on me comparatively--when athletes come back really fast.

Just in looking at baseball and football, though, since last August, the following guys all had emergency appendectomies: Adam Dunn. Matt Holliday. Matt Cassell. Andres Torres, and Michael Cuddyer.

Mind you, there were more names at all levels of sports Google revealed, but those were the cream-of-the-crop. And, as we all know, all of these guys returned to work pretty fast. In fact when you think about Cassell, who as a quarterback is essentially a target for defensive players, it is hard to imagine being knocked down so soon post surgical.

Last year I remember when Torres, who was out several weeks, came back as the Giants were in the throes of their pennant quest, and the speedy outfielder was missed. Cuddy was in the off-season, but Holliday succumbed right after homering in the Cardinals season opener this year. And now Dunn.

I am not sure why this procedure is suddenly in the news again. Maybe this is a normal amount of the operation, per capita, and the cycle just hit baseball? Maybe these guys did all eat dog food with bone meal as some sort of rite of passage?

I guess I am just glad I don't have any of them on my teams. I Dr. Christian Barnard could fix that. I don't even think Dr. Frank Jobe could help.



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