As a basketball fan and as an orthopedic surgeon, I was appalled at the type of medical care afforded Bill Walton and Bob Gross for their injuries. I had no idea that an orthopedist would resort to the use of repeated Xylocaine injections (particularly three injections in a single game), or the use of corticosteroids such as Decadron in an effort to keep a professional athlete competitive.
There can be no question that the use of drugs such as Decadron predisposes to softening of the bones about the foot and ankle and subsequent fracture. There can be no question that the injections of Xylocaine, even if not directly into the area of the subsequent fracture, predispose to excessive stress on the foot and ankle by removing the protective control of pain.
A doctor's responsibility is to the ultimate welfare of his patient, not only on the short term but also after the termination of his playing career. It should certainly not be directed primarily toward the team's won-lost record.
KEVIN D. HARRINGTON, M.D.
You stated that no one had to tell Bill Walton that "even if all the players were in perfect health but him, the Blazers would go nowhere in the playoffs." I can almost guarantee you that no one would tell him such a thing. I work in a very busy barbershop with Blazer fans coming and going all day long. It was the opinion of everyone who came in that if there hadn't been so many injuries to other players on the team, Portland would have had the championship, regardless of Walton's injuries.
Also, according to my customers, there are no more Walton fans in Portland. You neglected to mention that when the Blazers offered to refund season tickets, seven were turned in while 200 people wrote letters asking to buy them.
Hearty congratulations to Ron Fimrite for his compelling article on sore arms (Stress, Strain and Pain, Aug. 14). People too often fail to realize how fragile a major league pitcher's career is. Less than two years ago, at the age of 15, I suffered a shoulder injury that I have since self-diagnosed as similar to that of Steve Busby's torn rotator cuff. After years of dominating opponents three or more years older than myself, I was reduced to something less than a mediocre pitcher. Perhaps because I had other interests (academic), I did not have the determination and self-discipline necessary for total recuperation—the agonizing pain didn't help, either—and I have since resigned myself to doing no more than playing catch with my kid brother. It makes me appreciate what these major leaguers must go through.
Ron Fimrite implies that Smokey Joe Wood's career came to a pathetic end after an injury in 1913. He fails to mention that, after the injury and despite great pain. Wood posted a respectable 33-13 record during the next three seasons and led the American League with a 1.49 ERA in 1915.
Fimrite states that Wood returned as a utility man in 1917, going hitless in 10 games. Wood pitched in five games with Cleveland that season, and in the war year of 1918 was given a chance to make the Indians as an outfielder through the intercession of his ex-Red Sox roommate, Tris Speaker. Always a decent hitter (.290 in his miraculous 1912 season), Smokey Joe hit .296 in 119 games. Over the next four years he played in 341 games as a semi-regular, was on Cleveland's 1920 World Series championship team and had averages of .366 in 1921 and .297 in 1922.
Though the Indians would gladly have included him on their 1923 roster, Wood accepted the position of baseball coach at Yale, where he remained until 1942—hardly the tragic figure Fimrite suggests he was.
FRANK C. CIPPARONE
In early May of this year I met and talked with Smokey Joe Wood. Smokey Joe will be 89 this October and he's still chipper. He fell off a ladder at his home and again hurt his right arm and shoulder. He had a tough time of it for a while in the hospital, but he's home now cheering on the 1978 Red Sox.
ROBERT M. GARGUILO
West Haven, Conn.