March 4: Q of the Day
I’m just curious about Rafael Furcal and the option not to have surgery last year. Was this something he decided upon alone or was the club on board with this as well? And as an interesting ethical sort of question, can the club force one of its players under contract to have a surgery?
— Paul Z., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Let’s address this issue of Furcal and surgery because it has become a major talking point since Furcal’s latest setback. And let’s stick with the facts, which seem to have been lost in the months since Furcal’s initial injury.
In the days after Furcal suffered an Aug. 30 elbow injury, he was examined by Cardinals medical director George Paletta and diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of the ulnar collateral ligament. That diagnosis was not followed with a recommendation to have surgery. Rather, the Cardinals suggested Furcal begin an aggressive therapy treatment that began with a platelet-rich plasma injection. At the time (this is early September, remember), the Cardinals said that they intended to re-evaluate Furcal in about a month to see if surgery would be needed.
Furcal continued the therapy and rehab work, and by the time the Cardinals did that subsequent evaluation, the ligament in Furcal’s elbow had improved enough that surgery was again not deemed to be an option. As general manager John Mozeliak reaffirmed yesterday: “At the time, you couldn’t have found a surgeon who would have recommended surgery, so I don’t think that was an option.”
In other words, this is not a situation in which Furcal was encouraged to have surgery and turned down the option. Did he want to have surgery? No, he never did. But he also wasn’t presented with any argument that suggested he should.
As for the second part of your question, no, a team cannot force a player to have a surgery he does not want to have. As mentioned above, though, this was not a case in which there was a difference of opinion between player and team. Both were following doctor recommendation.
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