Pujols injured his right foot during a game in 2015; almost a month later, his game-time performance was still suffering. Whereas the infielder was usually a strong hitter, he remained hitless for the next 20 trips to the plate! Last week, however, he revealed the full extent of his recovery when he smashed out his 631st career home-run, breaking his tie with Ken Griffey Jr. to become the sixth all-time highest hitter in MLB history. What a come back!
Still, I can't help but reflect on how close this amazing athlete came to wasting his potential by playing hurt.
At the time, Pujols put the blame on his drought squarely where it belonged: on his injury. "I can't drive off my back foot. I'm using my upper body a lot more. That's the reality… "I'm playing hurt. I'm going to play hurt."
Ignoring the elephant on the baseball diamond (it’s really never a good idea to play on an injured foot!) team manager Mike Scioscia seemed determined to keep him in the lineup, saying: "This has impacted what he needs to do in the box — he's not quite as crisp as he would be if he wasn't hurt," Scioscia said. "But he's still hitting the ball hard, he's putting the ball in play and giving us great at-bats. He's vital to what we need to do. It's there."
Like Scioscia, so many coaches and managers try to squeez even sub-par play from their injured star players, but in my mind it’s a grave mistake. Playing on an injured foot not only diminishes your performance, as Pujols explained so aptly, it also has a tendency to extend your recovery time AND decrease your likelihood of ever fully coming back to your peak performance ability.As frustrated as athlete’s feel when they must sit on the bench, doing so when injured may be the best decision they make in their entire career, whether professional or amateur. If you’re dealing with an athletic foot or ankle injury and want a doctor that will put your health and long-term career before all other considerations, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider immediately.