Sosa's physical won't be a casual look

In addition to basic tests, O's mindful of slugger's aches from neck to toe

Baseball

February 01, 2005|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

His hip has been bothered by bursitis, his back by spasms brought on by a violent sneeze. His neck has been sore, and a swollen toe required surgery to detach the nail.

During the past two seasons, Sammy Sosa has been no stranger to the aches and pains that can sideline an aging sportsman.

And, tomorrow or Thursday, all of them will be on display when the 36-year-old All-Star slugger is to undergo his physical in Baltimore - one of the last remaining hurdles before he sheds his Chicago Cubs uniform for one with the Oriole bird.

Dr. Charles E. Silberstein, orthopedic surgeon for the Orioles, said the physical will consist of three parts: an orthopedic exam, a general medical exam and an eye exam. The general exam is likely to include the kind of basics you might get if you went to the doctor yourself: blood work, a blood pressure reading and an EKG, which measures heart rhythm.

For his part, Silberstein will ask whether Sosa has had pain or trouble with any joints from his neck down to his ankles. He will check Sosa's range of motion and perform so-called "manual muscle testing," in which he might push on Sosa's arm or leg and measure the resistance.

"You want to see how strong their muscles are in certain groups," said Silberstein.

Though team physicians usually review prior X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging exams or other imaging studies, Silberstein said such studies don't always provide the fullest picture of a player's health.

"You have to go by the [medical] history, and you have to go by experience," he said. "You have to go by the physical exam and not be as dependent on imaging studies. They help in completing the evaluation, but you can't put too much weight on them."

Sosa missed 36 games last season; he spent more than a month on the disabled list after a back injury triggered by sneezing. An inflamed hip also sidelined him.

But the outfielder, who sometimes refers to himself as a "gladiator," is generally thought to be in good health.

"They don't really care a whole lot about whether he has gastric reflux or hemorrhoids, but they do care whether he's got some spurs in his shoulder, if his knees are OK," said Dr. Bill Howard, director of Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center, who is not involved in the physical.

"If I was going to personally invest millions of bucks, I'd do a physical that would last about a week and a half," said Howard. "It's big money. They're going to check out everything that could be harmful to him."

The Orioles downplayed the impending exam.

"His physical is no different than any of the other physicals when we bring a player in," said team spokesman Bill Stetka. "We're not going to make a bigger deal out of this, medically, just because it's Sammy Sosa."

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