Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Church's Head

On some level it's kind of fun to point and laugh at the Mets' incompetence, but the laughing stops when it comes to things like this:
Experts in the field of concussion management strongly criticized the Mets on Tuesday for their handling of Ryan Church, saying that he has been put at significant medical risk by continuing to play through dizziness, lethargy and headaches.

Church sustained what the team called a mild concussion on May 20 against the Braves. While sliding into second base, his head slammed into the knee of an opponent and then fell hard onto the dirt. He missed the next game, but volunteered to pinch-hit four times since . . .

. . . Several experts in sports-related concussions, however, said that Church — who has told reporters that he has had a headache and has felt dizzy and tired almost every day since his injury — should not have been allowed to play at all because his symptoms had not cleared . . .

. . . “It’s his call,” Randolph said. He added: “He’s been feeling a little bit groggy, and most of what he feels is that uneasiness with his total, you know, mind. It’s kind of weird because he feels like he’s kind of foggy. He says he can hit, he can do that. But in the outfield, he’s unstable out there.”

Randolph added: “When you’re talking about head injuries, I’m pretty lame on that. I don’t even know how to respond to, you know, when we can put him out there.”

We should be cautious about throwing around accusations here because second-guessing diagnoses without, you know, actually having examined the patient is a questionable endeavor, but if the experts are right and Church is truly at risk, this is a far greater indictment of Mets' management than keeping Willie Randolph around. If you doubt that, the NYT concludes the piece with a reminder of the stakes involved:

Corey Koskie can testify to that. After sustaining a concussion in July 2006 while playing for the Brewers, Koskie attempted to come back despite symptoms including headaches, dizziness and nausea. He experienced far more severe symptoms for six months, and eventually had to retire.

“That’s pretty much the reason I’m here today — thinking I could play through it,” Koskie said in a telephone interview from his home in Minnesota.

Regarding Church, he added: “I think he’s nuts. He doesn’t want to get to the point where he’s not going to get better. Tell him to call me. It’s not worth it.”


KJ said...

Wow. The ignorance in Randolph's response is appalling. Wouldn't the team want to make sure that there is no health issues with its players? It's not like they don't have access to the best doctors. Also, isn't this where the player's agent or the Players' Association should get involved? Who is looking out for Ryan Church's best interest?

Chris Needham said...

A sidebar to that, I think, is that Church took heavy criticism from Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden over the years he was in Washington over his unwillingness to play when he was hurt.

He probably doesn't want to poison the well with the Mets either, and would stay in the lineup if let to his own choice

Jason said...

They might have well said "just rub some dirt on it" to Church.

Church has had an awesome year so far, but rolling him out there, seeing double, is flat out dumb and dangerous.

Shoot, if I were dizzy and groggy, the last thing I'd want to see (or try to focus on) is something being thrown at me north of 90 MPH.

Put him on the DL until his head and symptoms clear. Period.

Alex said...

I hope he's learned his lesson not to head-butt guys in the knee. That was a really dirty slide.

Daniel said...

How hard is it on Church, too? Some of it might have to do with shaking the rep, but the guy's also have a career year - the kind that might get him paid a lot of money (not sure what his contract situation is, but I'd imagine he's up for arbitration soon). He probably also feels pressure to continue to hold this team together, since virtually no one else is performing.

I think it's absolutely imperative that he get himself healthy. Concussions are serious business. But it's easy to say that from my chair, since I wouldn't be leaving possibly millions on the table.

Loztralia said...

When I was a kid there used to be a rule in rugby that if you got concussed in a match you missed two (or maybe even three) weeks, mandatory. It was centrally enforced so there could be no pressure on players to play through it, be a gamer or any of that crap.

Of course rugby went professional and since players who were concussed a week ago look fine the pressure grew to get rid of that rule, and lo and behold you now see blokes coming back in a matter of days - I've even heard commentators talking about a player "being concussed earlier in the game but ok to come back on now". And in rugby there is a very, very high chance of getting hit in the head again.

Not sure if there's a point here, except that if you leave the decisions in the hands of young men who want to play and team employees who don't really care about the young men, long term, it's inevitable that this kind of thing will happen.

ben said...

I spent a summer working for WTOP radio in Washington D.C. covering the Nationals in 2005. One of my duties was to interview players (puff pieces, nothing of interest). Everybody on the team was exceptionally nice to me (a 21 year old who was a bit star struck), particularly Gary Bennet.

The one exception was Ryan Church, who not only refused to be interviewed, but seemed to make a point of letting me know I was being snubbed. He would say, "nah, too busy" and then just sit down and do nothing to drive home the fact that he just wasn't interested.

Hard to root for the guy after that