Concussions have been a major concern in Major League Baseball this season. About a dozen catchers have been placed on the seven-day concussion list because of head injuries, including former MVP Joe Mauer, who has not returned to the Minnesota Twins after almost a month on the sidelines.
USA Today looked at the rise in head injuries among catchers in baseball, showing the trend has been increasing for the past two years.
Teams have put players on the disabled list due to concussions or head injuries 18 times this year, five more than all of last season and seven more than in 2011, when the seven-day concussion DL was implemented. In 10 of those 18 instances, the players were catchers, including the Boston Red Sox's David Ross twice.
The injuries are having an effect on playoff races, sidelining Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila for two weeks in August and Kansas City Royals All-Star Salvador Perez for a week early that month.
John Jaso, who ranked first in on-base percentage among the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics before sustaining a concussion July 24, has not shaken off symptoms and is likely out for the year.
Plus, it appears MLB is dealing with the same concussion culture that the NFL has been trying to change. Players say many of their peers are playing with head injuries.
"I guarantee you there are some guys playing with concussions now because they feel like it's not serious and they can just keep playing," said Chicago Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro, who considers himself fortunate to have had just two in his career. "The one thing we know now is concussions are serious injuries and you can't mess around with them."
Much remains unknown about the injury, which usually heals within a week but sometimes lingers for months.
Barry Jordan, director of the Brain Injury Program at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y., said no two concussions are identical simply because some people are more predisposed to sustain them than others.
"There are different variables that will influence recovery," he said. "And if you have a concussion and you continue to play and you keep aggravating it, it may cause a concussion to last longer."
Meanwhile, New York Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine told Newsday that he is still having post-concussion symptoms.
Austin Romine said the headaches are mostly gone but "issues" remain. And until those clear up, the backup catcher, who left Tuesday night's game here with a concussion after taking a foul ball off his mask, won't be available.
"With these things you never know," Romine said yesterday. "There are still things you have to take care of before you get back on the field."
Joe Girardi said Romine was scheduled to take an impact test, which is administered by MLB, sometime last night.
Romine, who suffered a far more severe concussion on a play at the plate in 2011 when he was with Double-A Trenton, described the test. "A bunch of memorization stuff," he said. "Very tedious and it takes a long time and it's hard."
-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor