A recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that position players in major league baseball who sustain concussions suffer statistically measurable dips in hitting statistics.
Players suffer concussions by getting hit by pitches, running into walls or catching a knee in the head sliding into a base. A catcher can suffer a concussion with a foul tip off the mask which snaps the neck back and causes the brain to be whipped back and forth inside the solid skull. Major league players can return to play after a concussion if they pass a concussion protocol constituting a series of interviews and tests of physical and mental functioning. This new study finds that even after passing these tests and having no apparent symptoms, hitters showed a decline in their ability to hit a baseball once they return to action.
The study identified 66 position players suffering concussions between 2007 and 2013. The study then compared their performance in the weeks before and after injury. In the 2 weeks before their injuries, the players hit .249 with a .315 on base percentage and a .393 slugging average. For 2 weeks after the injury, the line was .227/.287/.347.
The senior author of the study, Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, is a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester. Dr. Bazarian, commenting upon the results of the study, observed that recovering 90% may be enough for most ordinary activity but “you really need to be fully recovered to swing a bat at a 95 mile an hour fast ball.”
The study considered the possibility that time off by itself, even without an injury, could throw a hitter off, so the researchers did look at that factor in the study. They checked both before and after performance of position players who had taken similar amounts of time off for non-injury related reasons. The study found that those players actually performed better, when hitting, then before the leave.
Little Leaguers might not throw fast balls at 95 mph but they are often seeing the equivalent of such speeds when you consider that pitches are being thrown from only 46 feet away (or 50 feet away if playing Cal Ripkin League Rules).
This study confirms the importance of not returning a child to play, in any sport, until completely and fully resolved from all post-concussion symptoms. But, keep in mind that even then, athletic or school performance may still be affected.
Tony Baratta is a trial attorney in Huntingdon Valley, PA who represents clients who have been seriously injured. He has coached all three of his sons in Northampton Little League Baseball and is currently on the board of Northampton Little League Baseball as its safety director. Tony Baratta is the founding partner at Baratta, Russell & Baratta and a member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BIAPA)