By Ken Reed
There are folks in a couple other professions out there besides football player and hockey player that have to think about the dangers of blows to the head: baseball catchers and umpires.
For both catchers and home plate umpires, foul tips that go off a hitter’s bat and straight into the face mask can not only stun you but also cause concussions. Moreover, catchers and umpires get numerous foul tips into their masks during a season. Repetitive subconcussive brain trauma is a risk factor for CTE, the brain disease that’s drawn national attention because numerous football players and hockey players have been afflicted with the condition, which can lead to depression, memory loss, bursts of anger and anxiety and other symptoms.
Last month, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli suffered a sixth documented concussion. He openly questioned whether or not he would, or could, continue catching.
Some catchers have retired due to a series of concussions caused by foul tips, including former Cardinal Mike Matheny, a four-time Gold Glove winner as a catcher. Former Twin great Joe Mauer gave up catching and finished his career at first base due to concussions suffered behind the plate.
Those foul tips to the mask, in which the ball can be traveling 90 to 105 mph, or more, are nothing to take lightly.
“Your ears start ringing, you lose the sense of where you are and then the headaches start coming,” Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud said.
“I’ve had back-to-back pitches get me, straight on, and I couldn’t even stand after that. They had to take me out of the game.”
People have described the blow as being similar to a punch from a heavyweight boxer.
“The cells are, in a sense, stunned,” said Chris Nowinski, the chief executive of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
“You have this ongoing struggle for the cells to get the energy level back to normal. It’s an intense time frame for about five minutes.”
Umpires are every bit as vulnerable as catchers.
“The moment you get hit, all you see is white, like a bright light,” the former umpire Jim Joyce said. “And believe me, it hurts like hell.”
Umpire Dale Scott retired after missing almost all of the 2017 season due to head injuries.
Like it or not, the risks from blows to the head are a factor that catchers and umpires from the Major Leagues on down will need to consider before deciding to put on the mask.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
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Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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