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Making Sense of MLB Concussions

So, it took the Mets a mighty long time to put David Wright on the disabled list Sunday after his frightening brush with a baseball to the side of his temple. The team didn't assign him there Saturday night, despite the fact that Wright was in a hospital bed. They didn't even put him there Sunday morning, despite the fact that New York was left playing two infielders down, with Alex Cora also nursing a hand injury (as Ken Davidoff of Newsday noted in this column).

Eventually, the Mets did send the face of their franchise to the DL with post-concussion syndrome, despite a series of questionable delays in announcing the move. Really, there shouldn't have been any kind of a question about shipping Wright off to the sidelines for anyone who saw the pitch from Matt Cain that hit him on Saturday. Wright was down for count from minute one, and having him try to play through the mental fog would have been injurious to his confidence and statistics, to say nothing of his health, at the very least.

Still, the decision made a number of people wonder what the recent precedent has been for players returning from a concussion, and whether those prior approaches have been successful. The answer, it turns out, is that the approaches have been as varied as the teams taking them:

  • Last year, the Mets dragged out the return of Ryan Church after he was felled by a knee to the head while sliding in hard to second base. When he eventually did return, he still struggled with headaches and focus and eventually went back on the DL. He has since been traded to Atlanta, unable to regain the form he showed in his early stint with New York.
  • Reggie Willets suffered a first concussion last Aug. 3. The Angels sat him for two days before shoving him back into the lineup, after which he immediately suffered another concussion and missed 18 more days.
  • And just this month (Aug. 2), Scott Rolen was drilled by a Jason Marquis fastball, landing him on the DL on Aug. 7 ... after trying to play in two games (on Aug. 5 and 7).

So, what can we learn from those examples? Well, for one thing, clearly no one is ready to go within a week of having a serious concussion. Secondly, if the Willets example is any kind of a teaching moment, a team can probably do a lot worse than just sitting a player for 2-3 weeks, hoping to get a positive return afterwards.

What do you think? Should MLB adopt a blanket concussion standard (i.e., if you suffer a concussion you have to wait 7 or 14 days to return)? Does that make sense, or should teams be trusted to manage their players' concussisons themselves (even in an era of free agency when that can hurt a player's future owning potential)?

By Cameron Smith  |  August 17, 2009; 1:18 PM ET
Categories:  Mets  | Tags: David Wright, Mets, Ryan Church, concussion  
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i don't see why baseball shouldn't be any different than football in this regard. make the player get cleared by either his own doctor or the team's.

players will tell you they feel good if they think the team needs them (as david wright probably would) and managers will play the injured player if they think they'll be better than their replacement. making the player get medically cleared makes it actually about health, not headstrong individuals.

Posted by: adampschroeder | August 17, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

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