A fresh sprain in Mickey Mantle's oft-injured right leg, suffered while he threw off balance in a vain attempt to catch a Boston runner at home plate on July 4th, could rob 1956 baseball of its most spectacular exponent and Mickey himself of his great chance of beating Babe Ruth's home-run record. With the leg in a brace no one can say how often he will be out of the regular Yankee lineup for the rest of the season. "He is a cripple and insists on playing," says Stengel. Here is an expert medical opinion:
Mickey Mantle has suffered a forcible "pulling" of one of the lateral ligaments of his right knee. This ligament attaches the femur, or thighbone, to the fibula, the slender bone of the leg. X-ray examination indicated that the ligament had not been torn loose from the bones. This would have been extremely serious, but the pull was severe enough to cause an effusion of the knee-capsule, a membranous pouch just moist enough to provide smooth, gliding motion to the knee.
Injury or severe strain fills it with fluid. It becomes tense and painful and prevents motion until it is re-absorbed.
Injuries which have plagued Mantle in the past may very well be linked to his recent accident. The pulled hamstring muscles above and behind his right knee have been placing an ever-increasing strain on the adjacent muscle which can still take punishment. The strains and pain have been progressing from the back of the knee upward and outward.
He has been bandaging his right leg from shin to thigh, and now it will be put into a knee-cage brace. This long protective sleeve of two-way elastic fabric has a single metal hinge on the outside portion of his leg and is tightly laced on the inner portion.
SITE OF THE BRACE. The new brace (shown transparent) reveals the muscles it is intended to support.
SITES OF RECENT INJURY
1 External lateral ligament
2 Capsule of right knee-joint
SITES OF PREVIOUS INJURIES
3 Medial Meniscus
6 Biceps femoris
11 Gastrocnemius muscle
Mantle's first serious injury came in the 1951 World Series. Joe DiMaggio rushed to his aid, and after the game his dislocated knee was bandaged. In 1953 a piece of torn cartilage was removed. A heavy bandage still supported his leg in 1954, when he had a second operation. His 1955 World Series appearances were limited to 10 at-bats by a torn thigh muscle.