The hits just keep on coming. Shane Greene, who has dealt with ulnar neuritis and numbness in his hand throughout the season, was diagnosed with an aneurysm in his right hand that is related to a vascular problem in his right shoulder, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand told reporters on Sunday morning. Greene will see Dr. Greg Pearl, a vascular surgeon based in Dallas, Texas, this week to determine whether he needs surgery to correct the problem.
Greene has reported multiple bouts of numbness and coldness in his hand throughout the season, which may or may not have affected his performance on the mound. When the issue recurred again this month, Greene went to see a specialist. Now, with just a few weeks remaining in the season, he is likely done for the year whether his injury requires surgery or not.
The 2015 season has been a difficult one for Greene, to say the least. After three brilliant starts to open the season, Greene has struggled, allowing a 6.88 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 83 2/3 major league innings. His fastball velocity dropped from 2014 levels, and has even declined as the season progressed. While the injury may not be the entire reason for Greene's struggles on the mound, it's fair to say the numbness has likely played a role.
It's difficult to say exactly what is causing the aneurysm in Greene's hand -- reporters have even labeled it a "pseudoaneurysm," which is clear as mud -- but all signs point to the beginnings of thoracic outlet syndrome in Greene's right shoulder. Thoracic outlet syndrome is a compression of the nerve bundle and/or blood vessels in the shoulder caused by, among other things, repetitive stress, such as the overhead motion of a pitching delivery. These nerves and blood vessels feed to the arm and hand, and compression on those structures can cause numbness, weakness, and, if symptoms persist, even tissue death.
If Greene's injury is indeed caused by thoracic outlet syndrome, the condition is treatable. Several major league pitchers have undergone surgery to remove the first rib, a likely contributor to the compression in the thoracic outlet. Pitchers such as Chris Carpenter, Josh Beckett, Chris Young, and even former Tiger Jeremy Bonderman have come back to pitch in the major leagues after having thoracic outlet surgery.