R. A. Dickey a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners does not have an ulnar collateral ligament. There is a story in today’s New York Times sports page about this.
“For him to be able to throw at all is pretty phenomenal in itself,” said Rick Griffin, the Mariners’ head athletic trainer. “But he’s doing it in the major leagues. People in sports amaze you physically, but this is something you’d never suspect. It’s like a running back in the N.F.L. having no anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. It’s amazing.”
Is this really that amazing or is another case illustrating the wisdom of the body? Jerry Reuss, who had a long (20 plus years) and a very successful major league career as a starting pitcher was missing one of his rotator cuff muscles. Roy Wegerle, a member of two US World Cup soccer teams had no ACL. In the days before we were so quick to put the player under the knife or MRI every ache and pain I suspect there were a lot pitchers throwing with torn rotator cuff muscles and labrums. When I played football there were a fair number of players around who had a “trick knee”, I now realize that they did not an intact ACL. What does all this mean, simply that the body has a highly innate intelligence. It can substitute and compensate if it needs to. The body is self organizing and completely adaptive. Out of fear or insecurity we fail to give the body credit and allow it to do its job. If we understand the structure and function of the body we would quickly realize it is not about one muscle or a particular ligament, it is about muscle synergies. It is analogous to a good a good basketball coach during a game, when the coach sees a player getting tired the coach will put in a substitute. The body has many substitutes we just have to make sure that all those substitutes are as highly trained and finely tuned as the starters so they can do the job when called upon. How do you do that? Simple train across a spectrum of movements, with resistance and assistance, work though all planes of motion to challenge the body to solve increasingly complex movement problems.