This Time, Gibson Is Groin, Groin, Gone
The name is Groin, Dr. Alfred Groin, specializing in muscle injuries stretching from the thigh to the trunk, and vice versa.
Dedicated mostly to research, he doesn’t see many patients, making an exception in the case of Kirk Gibson, outfielder for the Dodgers, who has come to feel it is his lot to go through life with a limp.
In the last stages of the 1988 season, Gibson develops a knee problem. His plight is so touching that a hamstring goes out in sympathy.
What this means is, Gibson opens the 1989 season hiring a gumshoe, but the guy doesn’t know whether to tail the hamstring or the knee.
By July, the hamstring is better, at which point the knee goes out. Summing up, he plays 71 games and bats .213.
Now doctors treating the patient hold a convention, no doubt on Maui or at Pebble Beach. Doctors are partial to conventions where a slice will land you in the ocean.
How many medical conventions are held in Akron?
“Do we operate on the knee or the hamstring?” one submits. “Or do we probe for a hernia?”
“He had knee surgery in ’83,” a colleague interjects.
“Then let’s do the hamstring,” the first responds.
The vote is 65% for the hamstring, 20% for the knee and 15% undecided. They do the hamstring.
Gibson doesn’t perform for the Dodgers this year until June 2. By June 14, he is out again. And what removes him this time? Well, he runs to first base and, grimacing, rubs the right pelvic region.
“Aha,” Dr. Groin announces immediately, “there is a man with a groin pull.”
“How do you know?” the doctor is asked.
“When a man rubs the pelvic sector,” he replies, “the injury isn’t often a rotator cuff.”
And of course, the diagnosis is faultless. Gibson can hit, but he has a glass groin.
So out of commission he goes again, as he has in the past with a hamstring, a knee, a calf, an ankle, a wrist and a rib cage.
Baltimore’s Cal Ripken Jr. is drawing a bead on 1,400 consecutive games. The feeling is beginning to grow that Gibson isn’t going to catch him.
It is possible, though, he could catch Lou Gehrig in reverse, meaning that if Gibson remains in baseball, he could miss 2,130 consecutive games.
In 1988, Earvin Johnson of the Lakers visited the office of Dr. Groin, complaining of pain in the pelvic area. The doctor gave him heat packs, cold packs, massage, ultrasound therapy and anti-inflammatory medicine. He also prescribed special wrapping, special exercises, swimming and psychiatry.
“I’ll try psychiatry,” said Earvin, “when you show me that my groin is located in my head.”
Dr. Groin doesn’t care for patients questioning his medical procedures, but he still had Johnson back on the floor after missing only 10 games.
In the case of Jimmy Connors, then young in the sport of tennis, he came to Dr. Groin complaining of a bad pull that sidelined him. Woefully, he asked how it happened.
He was told he could have strained himself making a gesture to the gallery, which he used to do. Connors no longer makes gestures to the gallery and, you will note, he no longer develops groin pulls.
A groin injury isn’t what you would call a Park Avenue disorder, such as, say, gout, but it has laid low some of the greats of sports.
We are talking Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Muhammad Ali, Earl Campbell, Cliff Branch.
On the eve of the 1980 Winter Olympics, champion figure skater Randy Gardner, who worked with a woman partner, Tai Babilonia, contracts a groin pull. The two are favored for a gold medal.
Gamely, Gardner calls a practice to rehearse that part of the routine in which he lifts Babilonia and carries her aloft. He falls to the ice.
“I can’t do it,” he cries, “the pain is devastating.”
Dr. Groin suggests that Babilonia lift Gardner, but Randy refuses, and the two kiss away the medal.
It is the biggest Olympic heartbreak since the East Germans get caught sneaking in a blowtorch, disguised as a hair dryer, and heating the runners of their sleds.
What Dr. Groin now aims to do with Kirk Gibson is run precautionary tests to determine whether he is the victim of arthritis, lumbago and rheumatism visiting the thigh and the hip joint.
Gibson would claim, “My groin never felt better.”
And the next guy you hear from is his lawyer, charging his client’s career has been cut short by a charlatan with a shingle.