Kemp had significant surgery to repair a labrum injury, sustained when he smashed into the center-field wall at Coors Field on Aug. 27. He said doctors told him the soreness he feels is normal for the repair work done by Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Oct. 5. Kemp said he can tell that the sharp pain he felt while insisting on playing through September is gone.
“I can definitely tell my labrum is stronger, my shoulder is stronger from the rehab I’m doing,” Kemp said. “I’m sure when I come to Spring Training there will be some limits put on me for some things. I’m not trying to be 100 percent for the first game of Spring Training. I’m trying to be 100 percent for the first game of the season.”
Kemp said he was told to have surgery shortly after suffering the injury, but insisted on playing as long as the Dodgers were in contention for a postseason berth. Kemp was batting .337 at the time of the injury. After the crash, he hit .214 with six home runs, 15 RBIs and 33 strikeouts in 112 at-bats. The Dodgers were two games out of first place when Kemp was hurt and finished nine games back.
“I couldn’t shut it down,” Kemp said. “They told me to shut it down and think about surgery — or at least rest. But I just couldn’t do it. I had to continue and play. That’s what I do. I can’t sit and watch.”
“Sharp pain.” Love that. Love it, especially the part where Kemp was told he needed surgery but insisted on playing anyway, because why should a person in a position of authority — say, a doctor, or a manager — have any say? If this sounds familiar, that’s because this was us in September…
So, what, if anything, have we learned? That no matter how many times it’s been drilled into everyone’s head over the decades that “heroes play through pain,” it’s nearly a universal truth that hiding an injury or attempting to gut your way through it usually ends up hurting everyone in the end. For pitchers, that can mean a minor arm injury becomes a serious one (hi, Eric Gagne!). In Kemp’s case, even if this doesn’t have deleterious effects on his long-term health, the short-term impact is that he’s been a main contributor to the offensive struggles of the club.
Not only did Kemp’s injury-limited awful play hurt the Dodgers in September, now we have to worry about what effect it will have on 2013.
For the last time: playing through serious injury doesn’t make you tough. It makes you foolish, because it hurts the team both in the present and the future. It’d be wonderful if athletes could come to recognize that.