Posted on March 30, 2011 - by ChuckFinder
Go ahead, make some noise for Major League Baseball. On Tuesday, it made a change that was revolutionary by its stodgy, old-fashioned standard.
The new 7-day disabled list for concussions only.
Insert applause and Thunderstix here.
But they could’ve provided an even bigger ovation, made a larger national media splash, with one simple Florida news conference:
Here’s Justin Morneau and Jason Bay to tell you about how dangerous and difficult concussions in baseball can be.
True, Bay ultimately would’ve needed to cancel the appearance because of a rib-cage strain — yes, he might continue his DL-streak of regular-season games missed.
Still and all, Tuesday could have been a poster-boy moment for baseball, for all of North America, about concussions in major sports today.
Heck, the only U.S. athlete’s brain that Canada worries about more than Morneau’s is Sidney Crosby‘s.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is put someone in position the day after or two days later all of a sudden by saying, ‘Are you feeling OK?’ “ the Twins’ MVP first baseman told The Associated Press. “The worst thing you can do with a concussion is rush back to play.”
He should know. He went from All-Star to all-gone, missing half the season and all the playoffs because of his nasty concussion. The new 7-day window is vital, almost as much as the mandatory baseline testing — a UPMC staple with the ImPACT test that also measures the extent of the concussed brain and the recovery. And get this: MLB will examine and monitor umps, too.
To be fair, MLB is following suit the enhanced policies adopted by the NHL and NFL, but both of those games still have head-hit policies and more stringent injured-player control to worry about further. And baseball, remember, is the game that took years to act on performance-enhancing drugs, right Barry Lamar Bonds?
So this step in the right direction needed more than dual news releases by MLB and the Players Association.
It needed a player, a voice, a face to go with it.
No better way to emphasize the point than with sinew and breath.
“It gives us time,” Morneau continued about the new policy. “We don’t have to rush to make decisions. It also makes anyone feel they don’t have to rush to get back.
“I’m glad we’re finally getting to that point where it’s err on the safe side rather than err on the side of ‘let’s see how it goes and if something happens, something happens.’ It is getting better.”
The incidence of concussions continues to rise, though that’s primarily due to reporting: More athletes are being more honest.
But it seems, with empirical 2010-11 data still out and the science still evolving, that more and more star professional athletes are taking longer to recover. Seven days? Morneau, Bay and Crosby missed more than 10 months combined. . . and counting. And Crosby — cleared today, March 30, to return to Penguins practice but not contact — could continue sitting out until October.
Concussions are individualized injuries, different levels and different symptoms and, most of all, different recoveries for different people. It is a difficult and frustrating ailment.
As Bay the ex-Pirate in the Mets outfield, told USA Today earlier this spring: “When you’re not doing anything else, thinking about your concussion occupies all your time. You can watch TV if you can tolerate it, and early on I couldn’t. … Or [you can] read a book with the iPad or use the computer or nothing. … That was the toughest part: Do nothing, but do something to keep your mind off it. Well, what is that?”
So they try to sleep. Sometimes, for months at a time.
MLB didn’t sleep on this one. It made a change. Not publicly enough, but a change nevertheless. Maybe the NBA should get involved, and the Big Four could condense their policies, their medical brainpower and their experts, and together announce sweeping policies. Then maybe Crosby and Morneau would sit at a podium together.