Hand weakness, impaired circulation, pain and tightness in the neck, arms, and shoulders: while Jared Walsh, first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels, first started experiencing symptoms related to thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) in 2019, he didn’t want to let them interrupt his game. So he played on. He tried to keep his symptoms under wraps. And not only did he succeed, but he thrived.
Walsh came a long way in baseball; he rose from a 39th round pick in 2015 to an unbelievable year in 2020, followed by an (even more) unbelievable year in 2021. He hit 29 home runs, 34 doubles, and 98 RBIs throughout 144 games, earning .277/.340/.509. His top-tier play earned him a part on the All-Star squad alongside stars like Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
But, shares Rhett Bollinger on MLB News, Walsh couldn’t run from his injury forever. After his All-Star year, his symptoms worsened. Playing in games aggravated his injury. He could feel pulsing from his neck and shoulder through his fingertips—and it just seemed to be growing worse. This even followed him in his game, with his stats significantly reduced—almost halved—from his All-Star season.
By the middle of 2022, Walsh knew something needed to change. His injury officially pulled him out of the season; he underwent surgery to address his TOS in September 2022. The rib that was removed now sits in a jar at his house!
In the offseason, he rehabbed to prepare for the coming 2023 season. While he knows that there is still work to be done, Walsh believes that he can work back to his All-Star form—and help bring the Angels to victory this year.
What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)?
Thoracic outlet syndrome refers to a group of disorders that occur when nerves and blood vessels in the lower neck and upper chest are compressed, injured, or irritated. This area is called the thoracic outlet, hence the name of the syndrome. There are three main forms of TOS: arterial, venous, and neurogenic. Neurogenic is the most common form, accounting for 95% of cases. Thoracic outlet syndrome is more common in females, athletes, and those between 20-50 years old. Causes include anatomical defects (such as having an extra rib), old fractures or bone/tissue abnormalities, pregnancy, car accidents, or repetitive injuries from job or sports-related activities.
Symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome may include:
- Weakened grip
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in the neck, shoulder, hand, or arm
- Bluish discoloration of the hand
- Arm pain and swelling
- Blood clots in veins in the upper part of your body
- Cold fingers, hands, or arms
- Arm fatigue with activity
In many cases, thoracic outlet syndrome cannot be prevented. However, it is treatable with physical therapy and pain medication. Patients may also utilize thrombolytic medications for blood clots or surgery in extreme cases where other treatments are ineffective.