Concern for Concussions Among Professional Baseball Players

Michele Warg
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The issue of sports concussions has been getting a lot of attention lately, but most of the focus has been on concussions in professional football players. It turns out baseball players are also susceptible to concussions, putting their health at risk and affecting their ability to hit, catch and run the bases. Here is what health professionals need to know when it comes to concussions in athletes.

Baseball provides researchers the perfect opportunity to gather data on sports concussions because of all the statistics kept for each player. It's very easy to see if a player had a better RBI before or after his concussion, for example. Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian and his team looked at statistics for players who were on leave after sustaining concussions and those who were on leave because they had a death in the family or needed to spend time with a new baby.

The athletes who sustained concussions averaged 11 days of leave, while the players who were out for other reasons averaged five days of leave. When the players returned to work, the athletes who sustained concussions performed worse during their first two weeks back on the field than players who were on leave for other reasons. The results were adjusted to account for each player's performance before taking leave, the amount of time the players spent off the field and each player's position on the field.

When the researchers calculated each player's batting average before and after leave, the difference between athletes with concussions and athletes without injuries was significant. The players who did not have concussions had a batting average of 0.266, while the players returning to work after sports concussions had an average of 0.235. Dr. Bazarian says the researchers believe concussions affect the brain pathways that make it possible to hit a ball flying through the air at 90 miles per hour.

Dr. Gary Green, medical director for Major League Baseball, says the rate of sports concussions is very low in the MLB. The league has a concussion protocol that requires athletes to undergo neurological testing before the season begins, making it possible to compare baseline results with the results of tests performed after players sustain sports concussions. Players are also required to be on the disabled list for at least seven days following a concussion. Dr. Green says Bazarian's study is flawed because of the differences in the positions played and the number of days missed between the two groups.

Even if the study has some flaws, it highlights the importance of preventing concussions in sports. Doctors, nurses, athletic trainers and other professionals are working together to determine if changing the way games are played helps reduce the number of concussions sustained by athletes.

Sports concussions can cause problems long after a baseball player returns to the field. Dr. Bazarian's research highlights the importance of continuing to study concussions in athletes. Only with additional research will health professionals be able to come up with a suitable solution to a serious issue.

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