Mets Rumors & News
This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 at 1:07 pm and is filed under Baseball, jeffzachowski, Mets Rumors & News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

I’m not a doctor. I’m not even a science major. But I’m a sports fan, and a hockey fan, and over the years I’ve picked up a nugget or two concerning head injuries and the impact of post-concussion syndrome.

The NHL as a league took a long, hard look at head injuries in their sport right around the time that superstar Eric Lindros was clearly losing his battle with the recurring condition – a condition that had already forced his younger brother out of hockey. It’s no coincidence that the league stood up and took notice when Lindros’ career seemed in jeopardy. After all, the NHL had billed Lindros as the next to grasp the baton handed from Gordie Howe to Wayne Gretzky and later Mario Lemieux, much in the same way that the league is currently marketing Sidney Crosby. Nobody cared that Brett Lindros would never play again, but once Eric was felled it was time to take a look at just what exactly we had been doing to these athletes’ brains.

But this isn’t about the NHL. This is about Major League Baseball, and specifically the way the Mets have handled Ryan Church‘s latest concussion, his second in three months. Baseball has never had an Eric Lindros. Superstars lost to the stigma of PEDs, yes, but never to head injury. Still, you would think that someone amongst the team’s medical staff would know a sliver of what the NHL has uncovered about concussions since they began to investigate the injury. You would think someone, anyone within the Mets organization would have at least a cursory knowledge of the NHL’s battle with the injury and the measures they’ve taken to erase it from their game.

It is absolutely absurd that only after meeting with a neurologist on Tuesday has the team decided that it’s in Church’s best interest to “stay home, rest and pretty much stay out of the light, daylight,” as GM Omar Minaya told the media yesterday. Church has been suffering from headaches and dizziness since taking a knee to the head from Atlanta’s Yunel Escobar last week, yet despite these tell-tale symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, Church was allowed to travel with the team to Denver and back home, and has even been called upon to pinch-hit on four occasions since the injury. On a recent SNY broadcast, play-by-play man Gary Cohen indicated that Church did not even recall the hit he recorded in the first of those pinch-hit appearances.

Honestly, the negligence is mind-boggling, and it is magnified 10-fold by the fact that Church has now suffered two concussions in three months, and entered Tuesday night’s game tied for the team lead in homers (9), runs (34), and second in RBI (32). It’s nice to see the franchise protecting its assets.

For the record, the NHL would not have allowed Church to travel, practice, or even workout until he was completely symptom-free. Neurologists and concussion specialists have advised the league that any sort of exercise, exertion, or exposure to light and sound can worsen a concussion and/or prolong its effects. They have also learned that each successive head injury tends to be worse than the last, and that with every concussion suffered, the likelihood of a complete recovery decreases. Just ask former Rangers Jeff Beukeboom and Mike Richter, both of whom had their careers ended due to concussions, and both of whom suffered from fatigue and sensitivity to light for years following their injuries.

The NHL had to learn the hard way, and the Mets appear determined to take that route as well. I just hope it doesn’t cost anyone their career.

update: Thankfully, I’m not alone in taking note of this. The New York Times rips into the Mets today, providing scores of quotes from concussions experts supporting what I’ve written above. Via NYTimes.com:

Experts in the field of concussion management strongly criticized the Mets on Tuesday for their handling of Ryan Church, saying that he has been put at significant medical risk by continuing to play through dizziness, lethargy and headaches.

The experts said common guidelines for concussion management require that athletes be free of symptoms — sometimes for several days — both before and after physical exertion before they can return to competition. They also said that because Church had sustained a more severe concussion in spring training that cost him a week, the risks for him were greater. 

“That’s a situation that could be very dangerous,” said Dr. Mickey Collins, assistant director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Sports Medicine’s concussion program. “I haven’t examined this player personally, but if there were a second trauma to a person still experiencing symptoms, the risk could be much higher to a player’s health because he hasn’t healed from the first concussion.”

Dr. Robert Cantu of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, one of the nation’s leading experts in concussion management, said: “You’re playing roulette with your patient. You know the chances of him having another concussion are low, but you’re running the risk of exacerbating the symptoms that he does have. Now a person who would be asymptomatic in a week or two can have those symptoms go on for many months.”

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