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The Legacy of (the Other Type of) Drug Use

You may have noticed that Josh Hamilton has been conspicuously un-dominant in his third season back in the Major Leagues. Well, it's not so much that he hasn't been impressive, more just that he can't stay healthy, spending a significant portion off the field, during multiple stints on the disabled list.

Well, that may not be entirely coincidental, at least according to a fascinating article by Yahoo!'s Gordon Edes earlier this week. In the article, Edes consulted with Rangers strength and conditioning coach Jose Vazquez, who is openly concerned that the extreme drug use Hamilton was engaged in during the past could come back to limit his freakish physical abilities as his career wears on.

"His challenge is his health," Vazquez said. "We just don't know how his body will bounce back from all those years of drug use. It's a mystery to all of us."

In case you've somehow missed the full breakdown of Josh Hamilton's amazing story, here it is. Or, if you prefer the much longer, paid-for version, try this. Better yet, accept my Cliff Notes (TM) version: Hamilton was the ultimate can't miss prospect, and then he missed based on purely self-inflicted wounds. Most of the damage came from a series of addictive hard drug use, with Hamilton descending to a point that he spent days at a time on the streets and covered himself with tattoos that he now doesn't even remember getting (i.e., he was so high he didn't even realize what was happening in the tattoo chair).

That's the backstory that explains the hell that Hamilton put his body through, and now at least one school of thought holds that his body may be paying for the damage he did back then. As Edes details thoroughly, Hamilton has had a recurrence of abdominal problems, all of which center around muscles which may have been significantly damaged by the wearing away of muscle tissue during Hamilton's drug use. It's likely that his most recent setback, a tear in his abdominal muscle for which he underwent surgery in Philadelphia, won't be the last injury he suffers in his midsection, and may not be the last one he misses time for this year alone.

His trainer and coach are both very worried that he could continue to suffer the exact same injuries, and that we may just be watching the very start of a long string of physical breakdowns in Hamilton, who is as naturally large and ripped a player as you'll see around.

"It's just so hard to tell with him," Vazquez said. "His body is not as resilient as a normal person's. He has brute strength and serious talent, but his ability to heal and his immune system is not there, like it is for a lot of people."

"Maybe it's still taking a toll on his body," Texas Manager Ron Washington said. "I don't know that scientifically, but I think about it. It may be.

"He's so strong, and he plays with such reckless abandon. Who says that when he comes back that he won't bang into something else? That's just the way he plays."

So, what can Hamilton hope for? Just good fortune. And physical forgiveness. He's clearly been forgiven by the game, but whether he can receive the same response from his own body is another issue entirely.

"He's such a great story," Vazquez said. "He's been forgiven, he has a great message, but the consequences are still there to be seen."

By Cameron Smith  |  June 12, 2009; 2:02 PM ET
Categories:  Rangers  | Tags: Gordon Edes, Josh Hamilton, Rangers, Yahoo!, drugs  
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Next: Talking Behind Their Back: Mariners


I wonder whether restrictions on drug treatment for injuries could also be a factor in his being slow to heal. It's amazing that he's come back and done what he has to date given the way he abused his body.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 12, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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