Jose Reyes slid awkwardly into second base, and the result has the Toronto Blue Jays questioning if their season is sliding away. Reyes was carted from the field after what appeared to be a grim injury and is headed for scans on the ankle.

This is definitely a serious injury for Reyes, a speed player who was making the transition to both playing on turf and playing in the American League. Reyes has dealt with leg injuries, including a history of chronic hamstring problems and a knee injury, both while with the Mets. He has come back from both without losing significant speed, though many question if he’s had to play it safe. His range and non-steal base-running numbers do not back that theory up.

Early word is that Reyes has a severe sprain. He will have additional scans to determine the extent of the damage:

The worst-case scenario is that the ankle is fractured or there is a severe sprain, so the fact that he does not have a break is not necessarily good news. Either possibility would cost Reyes a significant portion of the season and could require surgery. A fracture of either of the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) has quite a range of possibilities, depending on the location and severity.

An example of this type of injury would be Derek Jeter‘s playoff injury from last season. Jeter needed surgery to fix the tibia and is still working to make it back to the Yankees lineup. 

With damage to the ligaments, this is not a “less than” scenario. Fractures tend to heal cleanly and can be checked easily. With ligaments and tendons, it is more difficult to fix and to monitor. Examples of this kind of injury include Buster Posey, who missed four months after having his ankle damaged in a collision at home plate but returned the following year showing no issues.

A shortstop with a more similar issue is Stephen Drew. Drew injured his ankle (warning: graphic image in link) on a slide, awkwardly impacting the catcher and breaking the ankle as well as doing soft tissue damage. Drew was able to return, but scouts regularly say that he still appears to favor the leg and may have lost some range.

The best-case scenario for Reyes would have been that this is a mild sprain or strain. While he would miss time with it, a relatively straightforward sprain of Grade II or less would usually require little more than a minimum stay on the DL at the top end. 

The Blue Jays medical staff will perform manual tests and X-rays. Most stadiums, including the newly renovated Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, have X-ray facilities on-site, often steps from the clubhouse. As you can see in the picture on the right, the Indiana Pacers have a common setup. The doors on the left are to their locker room and the door on the right is the X-ray machine.

The Jays medical staff will be assisted by the Royals team physicians as well. It is customary for vistiors to use the home team’s physicians, as team doctors seldom travel. This is common, and if needed, Reyes would be sent back to Toronto for further diagnosis and treatment. It is also possible that Reyes could see a physician like Dr. James Andrews or more likely, Dr. David Altchek, the Mets team physician who is one of the top consulting surgeons in sports.

This is another example of why the seemingly eternal debate about whether it is safer to slide headfirst or feet-first is truly moot. We have already seen a headfirst slide go wrong, costing Ryan Ludwick at least the first half of the 2013 season and perhaps longer after needing surgery to fix his shoulder.

Now, Reyes’ injury reminds us that one bad slide, no matter which part goes first, can be dangerous.

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