Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey’s Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

This post is part of our ongoing series to educate fans about the injuries to their favorite athletes and when they might expect them to return to play. If you have questions about your sports injury, call us at 201-962-9199 or learn more about our Sports Medicine or Sports Rehabilitation services.

Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey’s Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

When healthy, Matt Harvey has been one of the most electric pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately, he’s had a number of health issues. While most baseball fans are familiar with the Tommy John surgery he had, thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) and its treatment is not nearly as common.

WHAT IS A THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME?

The thoracic outlet is the space in the lower neck/upper chest that the nerves (brachial plexus) and blood vessels pass through on their way down the arm. The nerves and vessels travel between the scalene muscles, collar bone and first rib.

Thoracic outlet syndrome describes a group of disorders that results in compression of either the nerves or blood vessels in the neck. This can be caused by a number of different conditions including enlarged muscles, an extra “cervical” rib, or an old fracture of the collar bone.

What are the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome?

  1. Neck, shoulder, or arm pain
  2. Numbness
  3. Tingling
  4. Weakness of the arm or hand

How is thoracic outlet syndrome treated?

For most patients, physical therapy is the mainstay of treatment for TOS. Therapy focuses on improving the range of motion for the muscles in the neck/shoulder and improving posture. For the majority of patients, conservative treatment with physical therapy results in improvement of the symptoms. Most patients, however, are not throwing 95 MPH fastballs.

There are specific situations when surgery is indicated. If the compression of the blood vessels is severe, surgery needs to be performed to maintain blood flow to the arm and prevent blood clots from forming. If the patient starts to notice worsening weakness or the loss of muscle bulk (atrophy) in the arm, surgery is necessary. Surgery typically involves removal of a rib to allow for more space for the nerves and blood vessels.

With Matt Harvey, we don’t have all of his medical information, but he has chosen to proceed with surgery. It’s unlikely that Matt had major compression of the blood vessels or his doctors wouldn’t have offered him conservative treatment with a nerve block. The more likely scenario is that he wasn’t responding to physical therapy and his symptoms were affecting his performance. If he delayed surgery a few months, his recovery would have likely extended in to spring training next year and could have negatively affected 2 seasons.

Whatever the reason is that Matt opted for surgery, the rehabilitation should be less intensive than a pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery. Assuming there are no set backs, he should be ready for spring training in 2017. The long term picture for Matt Harvey is a little less clear. He’s only 27, but will have had 2 major procedures to his pitching arm in 3 years. It’s hard to predict how a power pitcher will respond to the surgeries.

At Progressive Spine and Sports Medicine, we specialize in physical therapy and nonsurgical pain management, and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is just one of the many injuries we diagnose and treat in our Ramsey, NJ medical center. For more information, please see our full list of our nonsurgical services, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.

We look forward to being your #1 solution for nonsurgical pain treatment.

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