Concussions have been a hot topic in sports for many years now, and with good reason. Sports-related concussions make up over half of all concussions! When people think of high-risk sports for concussions and brain injury, they often think of football, hockey, soccer, or other sports with a high incidence of head contact and tackling. Rarely does baseball pop up on that list, because historically, baseball accounts for a relatively low rate of reported concussions (less than 1 per 1000 athletes).
Despite this, Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken proactive measures by implementing concussion protocols aimed at identifying and addressing concussions among players. These protocols include mandatory baseline testing for all players and stringent guidelines for return-to-play. Consequently, there has been an increase in concussion awareness and reporting in recent years, as highlighted in a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
Prevalence of Concussions in Baseball Players
Traditionally, the prevalence of concussions in baseball has been relatively low compared to contact sports like football or hockey. The study above revealed a significant rise in reported concussions among MLB players, estimating a total of 627 concussions between 2011 and 2015. This indicates an average of 125 concussions per year in MLB alone. This also suggests that a considerable number of concussions were previously going unreported.
Interesting Fact: Roughly 50% of concussions go unreported across all sports.
Why do concussions go unreported?
- Lack of Awareness/Education: Athletes may not fully understand the signs, symptoms, and/or potential consequences of playing with a concussion.
- Fear of Consequences: Athletes may fear losing playing time.
- Toughness Culture: Some athletes don’t want to look weak and believe they should play through it.
Recognizing a concussion is the most important step in the management of the injury. Concussions are extremely difficult to recognize because you must rely heavily on athletes reporting their symptoms, and no two people will experience a concussion in the same way.
Which Position in Baseball is most at Risk for Concussion?
Among all positions, catchers are the most vulnerable for concussions, with foul tips alone accounting for 25% of all baseball-related concussions. Catchers are at risk of concussion for a number of reasons, including the frequency of foul tips, collisions at home plate, and the potential for being struck by a bat during a backswing. Although catchers have a higher risk for concussion, it’s important to remember that a concussion can occur in any position on the baseball field as a result of collisions with other players or being struck by a ball.
What Can Baseball Players do to Prevent Concussions?
To minimize the risk of concussion, baseball players should follow the tips below:
- Stay Alert: Players should be aware of their surroundings at all times during the game. This includes being mindful of other players on the field and communicating with teammates to prevent collisions.
- Proper Technique: Players should be trained in proper techniques to minimize the risk of collisions or head injuries.
- Use Protective Equipment: Wearing appropriate protective equipment is crucial.
- Concussion Education: Players, coaches, and parents should receive education and training on concussion awareness, recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion, and the importance of reporting and seeking appropriate medical attention.
- Adhere to Concussion Protocols: If a player sustains a head injury or exhibits signs of a concussion, they should follow the established concussion protocols. This includes removing the player from the game, seeking medical evaluation, and ensuring proper recovery before returning to play.
At Sheddon, we take pride in offering management for concussions and baseline testing through Complete Concussion Management Inc. (CCMI), a leading organization in the field of concussion research. This enables our therapists to assess and manage concussions more effectively and make informed decisions regarding a player’s return to school and sport.
Why is it Important for Baseball Players to get a Concussion Baseline Test?
One of the biggest concerns following a concussion is the possibility that an athlete returns to sport before the brain has fully healed and sustains a second concussion, which has the potential to cause irreversible brain damage. Unfortunately, there is no single clinical test that can be done in order to know when an athlete has fully recovered from a concussion.
How are health practitioners, coaches and parents supposed to know when an athlete is ready to return to sport? Different areas of the brain that could potentially be affected with a concussion must be assessed, including:
- Reaction time;
- Neurocognitive performance;
- and visual processing.
These different test results need to be compared to pre-injury values in order to know when an athlete has returned to their normal pre-concussion baseline values. As such, the best way to ensure that you return to sport safely following a concussion is to get baseline tested before a concussion even occurs. Read more about Concussion Baseline Testing here.
At Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic we offer the most comprehensive concussion management and baseline testing of any sports medicine clinic in the Mississauga and Oakville area. If you, your child, or your team wants to take the next step in concussion care contact us here.