Top NY Spine Expert Weighs In On Carlos Rodón’s Injury

It’s an understatement to say New York Yankees fans are excited about Carlos Rodón. The two-time MLB All-Star signed a six-year contract with New York just after the end of the 2022 season, which was the best of his career so far.

But Rodón has been out since the beginning of the season with a “chronic back issue.” Fans wonder: What’s the issue, and when could he possibly return?

Of course, the reentry of Carlos Rodón into the MLB season should have an effect on New York Yankees betting odds. Keep an eye on NY sportsbooks as the news changes, but now is a good time to get money in.

While we wait for word of a specific recovery timeline for Rodón, New York Sports Day reached out to a spine specialist in NYC to learn more about the potential diagnoses and outcomes for what Rodón might be dealing with. 

Here’s what we learned. 

5 things we learned about Carlos Rodón’s injury

We spoke with Dr. Andrew Hecht, Chief of Spine Surgery for the Mount Sinai Health System and Spine Surgical Consultant for the New York Jets and New York Islanders. He is also the author of the book “Spine Injuries in Athletes.”

Dr. Hecht spoke with us about common spinal issues and his knowledge of the best route of care for elite athletes. Here’s some of what we learned.

1. All we can do is speculate… But there are specific diagnoses we can probably narrow down to

Dr. Hecht emphasized that anything we discussed is merely speculative since the Yankees have not released a public diagnosis. 

“First, let’s be clear that we are speculating because we have never examined him, never talked to him, and never reviewed his imaging studies. All we have to go on is that there is a chronic condition, and he had steroid injections. It’s really hard to have this conversation without a diagnosis. We are being like Sherlock Holmes.”

2. Carlos Rodón is in good hands with the Yankees’ medical team

“The Yankees happen to have a fantastic medical staff,” Dr. Hecht said. “They have a superb head team physician, and they have very good people taking care of athletes there.”

“I do the spine surgery for the Jets and the Islanders, and I’ve done this for a long, long time,” Dr. Hecht said. “When it comes to dealing with teams, they’re very transparent with the athlete. There’s just no burden of responsibility to educate the media.”

3. These are the three most likely diagnoses for Carlos Rodón’s injury

With just the term “chronic” back issue and the details about steroid injections, Dr. Hecht said there are three diagnoses that are most likely to be what Rodón is dealing with:

  • Disc herniation
  • Spondylolysis
  • Early arthritic issues 

“Very often, these are treated with conservative care [like Rodón’s], but they’re three entirely different diagnoses with entirely different causes and treatments,” Dr. Hecht said.

What to know about disc herniations

“In this case,” Dr. Hecht said, “I would guess it would probably be a central disc herniation because he’s not having leg pain.”

He explained: “A disc is the structure that sits between the two bones in your back and acts like a shock-absorbing cushion. Now when the disc herniates, it can either push on a nerve or not push on a nerve. When it pushes on a nerve, it can cause leg pain, and that doesn’t sound like what Rodón has been having. If it doesn’t push on one of the nerve roots, it can just cause back pain without causing leg pain.”

What to know about spondylolysis

Dr. Hecht continues: “Spondylolysis is a little sort of crack in the bone, usually at the lowest lumbar level, that we see quite often in athletes. Usually, it is treated without surgery, especially at this young age. It often will respond to a steroid injection as well as physical therapy and rehabilitation.”

What to know about arthritis

Dr. Hecht said he considers this the least likely diagnosis, primarily because of Rodón’s age. Rodón is only 30. 

“But he may have some other kind of irritation of a little joint in the back called a facet joint.”

4. Conservative care is the right route for longevity

Whatever the diagnosis, the preferred course of action is conversation care, rather than surgery, to preserve Rodón’s health over time. 

“Part of the rehab process is almost like you’re creating a brace made of muscle,” said Dr. Hecht. “You’re trying to strengthen the things that live around the spine to take a little heat off the spine. Being a pitcher, there’s a lot of twisting, a lot of torque on the body, and it can be a challenge.”

“We try never to operate on anybody who’s a young athlete who just has back pain,” said Dr. Hecht. “We try to get those people back without surgery. The success rates are pretty high in doing that, but sometimes it’s frustrating because it takes time. But it’s better off trying to get him in the best condition possible because all athletes are much better out of pain than in pain,” Dr. Hecht said. 

5. What seems like a good sign IS a good sign

Rodón has said he is pain-free since the injection. Last week, he started playing catch and progressing in recovery. 

Dr. Hecht said that what looks like progress likely is exactly that.

“I think the Yankees medical staff is smart, is outstanding,” he said. “They are first and foremost concerned about the person and getting them to feel better and get back to their life. His life happens to be being an elite athlete. They’ll combine the steroids with his rehabilitation and keep a very close eye on him through the course of the season to make sure that he stays in the best condition possible, so he can be the most effective player he can be.”

Photo credit: David J. Phillip/AP Photo

About the Author

Hannah Vanbiber

Hannah Vanbiber is one of our writers for NY Sports Day. She started her journalism career in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a reporter covering local sports, entertainment, and business in the East Tennessee area. She is now a full-time freelance writer, editor, and reporter, covering women’s sports and sports betting in the New York metropolitan area.

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