Less than one week after having a cryotherapy procedure performed on his ailing right thumb, Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun has already been cleared to swing again, reports Tom Haudricourt at the Journal Sentinel.
Braun had his expected follow-up exam with Dr. Vernon Williams on Monday having had the procedure done on Thursday in Los Angeles. The good doctor gave the go-ahead for the 2011 MVP to begin swinging a bat again, though Braun likely won't attempt to hit again until later this week.
Cryotherapy was done to dull the pain receptors around Braun's injured right thumb, which has clearly hurt his ability to hit for the past two seasons. Braun has said that the pain caused from hitting forced him to change his swing, essentially causing him to hit one-handed. Cryotherapy, in essence, froze the nerve in the area with subzero temperatures via a needle.
Though the thumb has been bothering him since early 2013, Braun elected not to have surgery during an extended (for him) offseason last year due to concerns it may actually worsen the injury. Instead, he chose to rest his hand in hopes the pain would clear. Unfortunately, it flared up again as early as spring training.
The risk with cryotherapy is reportedly minimal, though there is still no guarantee it will work. The first test will come when Braun does attempt to hit again.
Braun, who is signed through the next six years for another $103 million, posted career-low numbers nearly across the board in 2014. Over 135 games, he hit .266/.324/.453. His 777 OPS was 89 points lower than his previous career-worst of 866 in 2010.
More so than any coaching turbulence, player acquisition or anything else, the health of Braun will likely be the biggest factor toward any Brewers success in 2015 and beyond. Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez have stepped up as major contributors, and both likely received MVP votes this season. However, if Braun is even close to 100% he is the clear-cut best hitter on the team. That, along with his big contract, means that a right thumb is crucial for Milwaukee. Hopefully we'll know if cryotherapy worked sooner than later.