Mike Trout Is About to Start Running. How Close Is He to Returning to the Field?
My best day yet, tolerance-wise" - Mike Trout
That is what Mike Trout, the centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels, had to say about his rehabilitation session on Monday, June 8th. Does this mean he will soon return to the Los Angeles Angels lineup?
The next steps
Trout believes that he will begin jogging soon. That is a big step in any rehabilitation program, but it is still a long way from game action.
Trout ditched the walking boot on June 1st, meaning he will still have atrophy in his lower leg muscles. When immobilized, muscles begin wasting away immediately. Granted, Trout has superior genetics, had significant muscle mass and strength pre-injury, and likely performed some level of non-weight bearing exercises throughout his rehabilitation to minimize the loss of muscle mass.
The walking boot minimizes the tensile forces and strain required to walk. The boot does not prevent all levels of muscle activity, and Trout could perform low-intensity exercises out of the boot.
Having only walked for one week, his first runs will be low-intensity and short duration. He needs to build up strength, endurance, and tolerance to load. When muscle heals, it is disorganized and weak. Through gradual loading using resistance training, muscle and tendon tissue reorganize and strengthen.
Trout has several more weeks of training before he will be able to sprint, jump, and rapidly change directions, all of which are needed to play the outfield and run the bases. Even swinging a baseball bat requires power generation from the ankle and calf.
What will rehabilitation look like?
While I haven't worked with major league baseball players, I have worked with high-level athletes, including collegiate baseball players and professional football and basketball players. These athletes are physical specimens, but the body can only be pushed so fast.
Trout's rehab will primarily focus on building calf strength and power. He has likely been working on the upper body and trunk strength, power, and endurance since the day of his injury.
As his calf strength and endurance progresses, his weight-bearing motions will increase in intensity. Walking speed, distance, and incline will progress first, along with lower-body weight-bearing strength training, such as squats and deadlifts.
As tolerance to load progress, he will begin light plyometrics, such as low-intensity jumps and jogging. Don't expect sprinting to occur for weeks. Sport-specific movement, such as chasing fly balls and running the bases will come last.
Trout is the greatest player on the planet and arguably top ten all-time already. The Los Angeles Angels will not rush him back and risk another injury. While they still have playoff aspirations, they are not a World Series team. The potential short-term reward is not worth the long-term risk. An Achilles tear would be detrimental.
It is likely we won't see Trout on the Los Angeles field until after the All-Star game. When we do, however, expect him to pick up right where he left off.