It was a known fact that David Ortiz was dealing with foot pain since at least the 2012 season. But the Boston Red Sox’s coordinator of sports medicine service gave some insight into just how much pain the designated hitter was in.
In a recent interview with WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Dan Dyrek, who famously stretched Larry Bird’s career despite the Boston Celtics legend’s back injuries, detailed the agony Ortiz went through from the 2013 season on. As it turns out, the damage to Ortiz’s feet affected his bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and skin.
“It wasn’t his Achilles in isolation,” Dyrek told Bradford. “There was certainly pain within the insertion where the Achilles goes into this particular pain. But to say that was his problem is a narrow look at it. There are 26 bones in the foot and ankle complex and they are held together with ligaments and joint capsules and then the tendons come in and muscle attachments allow them to move. He had such longstanding inflammation that he scarred down heavily in multiple joints of the ankle and that created abnormal loading and forces in all the soft tissues. So the joints were restricted from the inflammation that caused the scar tissue over time. And then the muscles and tendons were all being abnormally loaded, and they got scarred down.”
“He was essentially playing on stumps,” Dyrek added. “Instead of having this nice, flexible, foot, ankle, calf mechanism to act as a shock absorber, he was playing on stumps. And you can do that for only so long. He was in warrior mode trying to play through this. Once we diagnosed him and saw what was going on and started explaining things to him, there was actually a sense of relief because now he had an explanation of what he was in such excruciating pain.”
Dyrek and Ortiz figured out a routine. Dyrek traveled with the Red Sox for the entire 2016 season because by that time, Ortiz needed to get to work early for treatment every day. Ortiz played first base only once this season, and Dyrek decided that was too much. Dyrek would cringe if he saw Ortiz pushing the limit and doing things like taking aggressive slides.
But Dyrek told Bradford that Ortiz did it anyway because he didn’t want to disappoint the Fenway faithful.
“There was no question he was pushing,” Dyrek said. “He felt an obligation to the fans. He would say, ‘People come to see me play so I want to get out there and keep playing.’ But eventually it took its toll. He had to have treatment essentially every day because the problems that were in there you can’t resolve them 100 percent. He was never 100 percent pain-free. He had days of no pain, but over the course of every week there were always a few days he had pain.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images