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Doubts About Willis' Disorder Surface

When Dontrelle Willis was sent to the 15-day Disabled List with Anxiety Disorder yesterday, there were plenty who expressed some shock at the move. Now, Detroit area doctors are openly questioning the Tigers' medical staff, which claimed that Willis' condition was discovered via blood test.

According to this story from the Detroit News, at least two Detroit doctors question whether social anxiety disorder could be discovered with a blood test under any conditions.

"I can't speak of the specific situation, but to the best of my knowledge, you cannot diagnose an anxiety disorder by a blood test," said Hiten Patel, a psychiatrist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "Most psychiatric conditions cannot be diagnosed by blood tests, and anxiety disorder cannot be diagnosed in such a way."

"There's no anxiety disorder, no psychiatric disorders, which are diagnosed by blood tests," said Taft Parsons, medical director of the Kingswood Hospital, who explained that anxiety might be a symptom of a medical situation identified by blood work, such as a thyroid condition. "But (anxiety) would not be the disorder itself. Only a symptom."

Those conclusions would be pretty damning to the Detroit medical staff, and to the Tigers organization itself. In a more direct way, it might lead Major League Baseball to re-consider it's allowance of a medical DL stint for Willis, forcing the Tigers to make a decision on his future now, rather than later.

Of course, there's no reason to believe that will definitely happen. As Pasons mentions above, thyroid tests that return abnormal levels are often seen as a symptom of social anxiety disorder. CBC (complete blood count) tests can also set off alarms, but can't independently confirm social anxiety or other psychological disorders.

In fact, the only test that professes to identify social anxiety disorder is this experimental procedure from Hebrew University, which, to date, has only been used on some 450 American test cases.

So, are the Tigers trying to pull one over on Major League Baseball? Or did General Manager Dave Dombrowski just over simplify the Willis diagnosis? Either way, the team may have more questions to answer about Willis condition, sooner rather than later.

By Cameron Smith  |  March 30, 2009; 11:42 AM ET
Categories:  Tigers  
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Next: Moment of Levity: The Big Picture


If someone has an anxiety order significant enough to prevent them from doing their job, there ought to be some more obvious symptoms than the blood test. I really hope the Tigers aren't faking this. Psychiatric disorders are serious, miserable things to go through.

Posted by: petey5 | March 30, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

How can you have anxiety disorder when you're guaranteed 50 million? They should have chose their disorder better.

Posted by: Brue | March 30, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

When I first read the story I was suspicious, precisely because of the blood test element. I didn't (and don't) see the linkage between the two.

I'm not going to question the diagnosis, I don't have enough information to cast doubt on the Detroit doctors or GM.

It's how they've come to the conclusion that I find confusing.

On another site they say that Detroit has permission from the commissioner's office. This makes me feel slightly better that the Tigers are not trying to "hide" Willis on the DL. At the same time I cannot help but think we're not hearing the full and complete story.

No matter what happens it's a shame to see Dontrelle fall so far, so fast. I used to love to watch him pitch but last year he was a disaster. I'm hoping he'll show up on a major league mound again but I have a feeling it might be a long time before I do.

Brue: I think it's a little unfair to suggest that the mere fact he's making $50 million means this diagnosis is wrong. Frankly, trying to live up to his contract might be the cause of his anxiety, for all any of us knows.

Posted by: grforbes | March 30, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Did the blood tests lead to a diagnosis or did the blood tests reveal something that was being taken to alleviate symptoms?

At any rate, I'm with gforbes in hoping to see Willis on a major league mound again (and in his old form) at some point. Hope that he's able to overcome whatever it is that ails him.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 31, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

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