As reported by the Boston Herald, February 19, 2008.
Schill Left Frustrated By Conflict
By Rob Bradford
FORT MYERS – The frustration wasn’t hard to find on Curt Schilling [stats]’s face as he spoke to a small group of reporters in front of the main entrance to the Red Sox [team stats] minor league training facility yesterday morning.
“There’s a lot going through my mind,” the Sox pitcher said regarding his disagreement with the team regarding how to treat his shoulder/arm injury. “Obviously, there have been a lot of discussions over a long period of time. This is where we are: At the end of the day, I signed a contract with this team, so I have to abide by the rule of the (Collective Bargaining Agreement), and one of the rules is from a medical standpoint, they’re allowed to dictate how and when things are supposed to happen.”
Schilling wasn’t alone in his uncertainty.
“My guess is that if Curt Schilling’s symptoms are essentially entirely related to his biceps tendon, my prediction is that with the surgery, he has the best chance of getting back,” said Dr. Tony Romeo, a team physician for the White Sox. “And knowing him, he probably will be back.”
Romeo is no stranger to the Schilling controversy, which took center stage yesterday as the pitcher reiterated his preference to undergo the subpectoral biceps tenodesis surgery recommended by Dr. Craig Morgan, who operated on the right-hander’s shoulder in 1995 and ’99. The Red Sox, however, have insisted such surgery isn’t necessary and that they’d attempt to void his contract if it took place.
Romeo is believed to be the only surgeon to perform the surgery on a professional pitcher, a minor leaguer in the White Sox organization. He, along with Dr. Augustus D. Mazzocca and Dr. Robert Arciero, helped create the procedure, starting in 2002, to the point where Morgan wished to present it to Schilling.
According to Romeo, the White Sox minor leaguer (whose name is protected under medical regulations) is back throwing successfully. The doctor also performed the surgery on a mid-40s park league pitcher in Chicago, who was back throwing in 4-5 months despite Romeo’s recommended return date of six months. The amateur hurler is reportedly playing three or four times a week.
“The surgery works extremely well in eliminating the pain, even in the overhead athlete,” Romeo said. “It’s been particularly effective in some of our older, such as 30s, high-level players who have had biceps symptoms. When it does happen, we have been able to stabilize the biceps and rehab it very quickly, which also allows them a more aggressive return to their sport.”
Mazzocca, who helped design the screw that holds the biceps tendon in place during the healing process, was supposed to sit in with Morgan during three scheduled surgeries on Schilling, each of which was canceled by the Red Sox. Morgan was to perform both an arthroscopic procedure on Schilling’s shoulder, as well as the subpectoral biceps tenodesis.
“I had all kinds of flights down to Philadelphia. One of the reps who supplies the screws was going to pick me up and bring me over to Dr. Morgan’s operating room,” said Mazzocca, an active team physician for the University of Connecticut. “It was set up three times. We couldn’t tell anybody what was going on, but I got some upset patients because we had to cancel.
“I did see (a copy of the) MRI. I didn’t see the actual MRI, Dr. Morgan had faxed it to me. But even on that fax, which you might imagine is pretty low quality, you could see that that biceps was in a number of pieces. It wasn’t a normal biceps.”
Schilling said yesterday that even though the Red Sox continue to have him treat the injury with a cortisone shot and strength and conditioning, he predicts the subpectoral biceps tenodesis is ultimately unavoidable.
“I will have to have the surgery no matter what, that was made very clear to me,” Schilling said. “I will have to have the biceps procedure at some point in the very near future in my life if I want to live a pain-free, normal life.”
Schilling continued to express frustration in the process of diagnosing the best treatment. The Red Sox don’t agree with Morgan’s assessment of a diseased biceps tendon and that surgery is the only way to get Schilling back on the field. However, the right-hander is contractually obligated to follow the team’s advice.
“The hard part is I was here 13 years ago. I went to see Dr. Morgan on the advice of our team trainer after a misdiagnosis by the team and was told this guy is a knife-happy guy, he’s a fringe guy, he’s not a mainstream guy . . . you’re going to end your career. Here I am 14 years later, and he was right at every turn,” Schilling said. “He’s been cutting-edge forever. He’s always been well ahead of the bell curve. He’s an orthopedic surgeon, but I guess that’s like saying he’s a major league pitcher. He’s the (Jonathan) Papelbon, he’s a specialist. The shoulder is what he does. So I’ve always trusted him and his work. They disagreed. At the end of the day you hear one doctor say one thing, another doctor say something else, and a third doctor saying something completely different. I’m probably as lost as anybody at the end of the day.”