Recent physical shows Angels' Shohei Ohtani has a damaged elbow ligament

Jeff PassanMLB columnist
Yahoo Sports

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – New Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament, according to a physical obtained by Yahoo Sports, and underwent a platelet-rich plasma shot in October in hopes of treating the elbow pain caused by it.

Ohtani, the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher and left-handed power hitter who signed with the Angels on Saturday after a frenzied recruiting process, has a first-degree sprain of his right UCL, according to a report dated Nov. 28 and performed by Dr. Masamitsu Tsuchiya at Doai Kinen Hospital in Tokyo.

While a first-degree sprain is the least severe of UCL injuries, further damage could lead to Tommy John surgery, a reconstructive procedure that sidelines pitchers for a year. The shot of PRP, a biologic of centrifuge-spun blood that is used to promote healing, was administered Oct. 20, according to the report, which was distributed to teams after Ohtani entered Major League Baseball’s posting system. Ohtani, the report said, “will be most likely available to start his throwing program approximately a month from the PRP.” After returning to Japan from Anaheim, Ohtani was seen playing catch Tuesday, according to reports in Japan. Sports Illustrated first reported that Ohtani had received the PRP shot.

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“Although partial damage of UCL in deep layer of his right UCL exists,” the report said, “ … he is able to continue full baseball participation with sufficient elbow care program.”

Shohei Ohtani has a first-degree sprain of his right UCL, according to a medical report. (AP)
Shohei Ohtani has a first-degree sprain of his right UCL, according to a medical report. (AP)

In addition, a “small free body” floats in Ohtani’s elbow near his UCL, according to the report.

When reached late Tuesday, Angels general manager Billy Eppler told Yahoo Sports: “Shohei underwent a thorough physical with MRI scans to both his elbow and his shoulder. Those are scans we conduct whenever we sign a pitcher. Based on the readings of those MRIs, there are not signs of acute trauma in the elbow. It looks consistent with players his age. We are pleased with the results of the physical and we are very happy to have the player.”

The Angels signed Ohtani for slightly more than $2.3 million and agreed to pay his former team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, a $20 million posting fee in spite of the injury. Elbow damage is fairly common among pitchers, though the use of a PRP shot indicates a further level of concern. It is particularly troublesome for Ohtani because of a strong correlation between fastball velocity and elbow injuries. Ohtani, whose fastball has reached 102 mph, threw only 25 1/3 innings for the Fighters this season after missing most of the year with a strained hamstring. Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, did not return a call seeking comment.

On Oct. 12, he underwent surgery on his right ankle, which had hampered him since he injured it during the 2016 Japan Series and through spring training in 2017, according to the report. After the arthroscopic surgery, which removed an extra bone that had developed behind his ankle and a bone spur, Ohtani will need three months until he can return to “full participation of baseball activities,” according to the report.

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