Sunday, August 25, 2013

Addressing Mauer's Concussion Situation

Joe Mauer won't be coming off of the concussion disabled list when he is first eligible. This probably isn't much of a surprise since the Twins are well out of the playoff discussion in the American League. Mauer has been told by the team to rest at home and report back to Target Field on Tuesday, the first day he could have come off the concussion DL.

When dealing with a player making $23 million a year, it makes sense to proceed with caution. The team needs Mauer to be healthy for the future and there isn't much of a hurry to get him back on the field this season. Minnesota will trudge on without him while looking to play a spoiler role to some of team's ahead of them in the standings.

For those that haven't been following the situation, Mauer took multiple foul tips off his catcher's mask in last Monday's game versus the Mets. The next day he experienced some dizziness during pregame batting practice and the team placed him on the 7-day concussion DL. Since being on the DL, Mauer has visited Mayo Clinic and everything came back clear from those appointments.

Catchers have been populating the 7-day concussion DL across baseball this season. As of this weekend, there were five catchers including Joe Mauer. Ryan Doumit, one of the Twins other catchers, was recently on the concussion DL and he wouldn't mind seeing some changes to the equipment worn by men behind the dish. This probably won't happen in the middle of the season but it could be something looked at by baseball in the offseason before next spring training.

Dr. Gary Green, MLB's medical director, said that the league is working on gathering information on the rash of catchers suffering from concussions. Foul tips and collisions at home plate come are part of the job description for the men wearing the mask. Green went on to say that around 40% of the players on the concussion DL have been catchers. This is a big percentage and it can be concerning for MLB and the fans of the game.

Fans in Minnesota have even more of a concern when it comes to catchers. Their best player and hometown star is a perennial All-Star catcher and fans want to see him on the field as much as possible. In recent years, the Twins have allowed Mauer to spend more time playing first base or getting at-bats as the designated hitter. This trend will likely continue as the team moves forward.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also expressed some concern about head injuries in relation to catchers. "Baseball, I'm sure, is going to find more ways to protect them and I don't know what it is going to be. We had a long conversation with our trainer about all of the types of different things they can try to limit that blow on the mask, from shock absorbers to air-filled masks. I'm sure there is going to be a lot more talk now because of this rash" of concussions.

The Twins have been very familiar with concussion related issues over the last few seasons. Players like Justin Morneau and Denard Span missed large chunks of multiple seasons as they each tried to recover from concussion related symptoms. It has taken Morneau a long time to get back to the player he once was and he still doesn't seem to be all the way back.

Brain injuries are different for every person and that's what makes them so tough to understand. Twins fans hope Mauer's situation doesn't turn out like Morneau's drawn out recovery. The club has a lot of money relying on Mauer making a recovery and being a valuable player behind the plate.

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