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Injury Threatens Dellucci’s Career

July 26, 1999

PHOENIX (AP) _ David Dellucci, the promising young outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, will undergo surgery on his left wrist this week to repair a rare, serious condition that threatens his career.

Even with the operation to shorten the radius bone in his forearm, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, there is no certainty that Dellucci will be able to play professional baseball again.

``This is a very serious condition. This is not a minor problem,″ said Dr. Don Sheridan, an orthopedic wrist and hand surgeon who will perform the operation. ``It’s also one that is not easily fixable or 100 percent fixable. I think David has got about a 70 percent chance of having a good result.″

His condition is a form of vascular necrosis similar to the hip disorder that ended Bo Jackson’s football career and a condition that may be the cause of NFL running back Garrison Hearst’s ankle ailment.

In the wrist, the condition is known as Kienbock’s disease. If not corrected, it would result in the bone in Dellucci’s left hand slowly dying and ``turning to rubble,″ Sheridan said.

The condition, which Sheridan classified as an injury, was caused by the length of Dellucci’s left radius bone combined with the repeated jarring that comes with playing baseball, especially at the high-octane intensity level that is Dellucci’s trademark.

Dellucci, who was batting .394 in limited duty, had worked his way into the starting lineup in recent weeks. He was 16-for-32 in his last nine games.

Dellucci said Sunday that he did not announce he would have the surgery until he had a chance to talk to his family late Saturday night.

``I’m scared that there’s a chance this may fail, but I can’t look at it that way,″ he said. ``I’ve been overcoming odds all my life to get here. This is just another bump in the road to get over.″

Dellucci said the wrist has been bothering him for a long time but the pain had become unbearable the last few weeks.

``If I keep playing with it the way it is, my bone would pretty much disintegrate in my hand,″ he said. ``The best thing to do is get surgery, and the sooner the better. I’ve never had a broken bone. I’ve never had any trouble whatsoever. This is just a case where one bone is longer than the other, and every time I take a shot to this hand, nothing is there to brace it. It’s a serious operation, and it’s something I have to do to keep playing.″

The repeated jarring of the radius bone has damaged one of the many small, dice-sized wrist bones known as the lunate, Sheridan said. That, in turn, has cut off much of the blood supply to the hand.

``If David continues to play he is at high risk and is almost certain to sustain irreversible damage such that it would be career-ending,″ Sheridan said.

Dellucci’s penchant for constant hustle, diving for balls in the outfield and sliding head-first on the base paths ``probably contributed″ to the problem, the doctor said.

Sheridan planned to shorten the radius bone by 3 or 4 millimeters to more evenly distribute the force across Dellucci’s wrist.

If the surgery is successful and the recovery goes well, Dellucci would be ready for spring training next year.

``I think if anybody has the ability to come back from an injury like this, it would be somebody like David,″ Sheridan said. ``He’s young, is in extremely good physical condition and he’s demonstrated that he has the desire and motivation.″

But would he be able to play with his previous fervor?

``Depending on how it turns out, hopefully it will be a good wrist for him that won’t interfere with his ability to play,″ Sheridan said. ``But I probably will hold my breath every time I see him dive for a ball.″