Monday, July 7, 2008

Put Ryan Church On The Shelf

In late May, the Mets were roundly criticized for continuing to play Ryan Church despite continued headaches dizziness, and lethargy following a concussion he received on May 20th. Soon afterwards, Church went on the DL where he spent most of June. Church came back last week, but soon began feeling awful again, and he's now leaving the team for further treatment. With all of the appropriate I-am-not-a-doctor caveats, this left me dumbfounded:
At that time, the Mets were criticized for relying on Church to decide whether he could play after the second concussion. Jerry Manuel said yesterday that the team would no longer allow the patient to dictate treatment. "I'm just going to take it out of his hands," Manuel said.
It's no secret that this blog is highly critical of the National Football League. I hate most everything about it, from its salary structure to its pension system, from its labor rules to its selectively paternalistic approach to the players, from its hyper-seriousness to the culture of gambling it cultivates and tacitly encourages. But one thing I can't fault the NFL for is its in-season medical care to active players. When a quarterback gets a concussion, you read about the battery of medical tests he undergoes and the disappointment he feels when the medical staff tells him that he can't play. Careers have been ended by concussions in the NFL, obviously, but when they do, it's more often than not because doctor has told the player that he simply can't go anymore.

Then there's the Mets. Do they not have access to a neurologist who could have decided whether Ryan Church was able to play in late May and again this past week? After all of the drama in late May, they were still letting him decide whether to play or not? Ryan Church is a professional athlete. He's been trained since he was but a lad to say "put me in coach, I'm ready to play," no matter how ready he actually is. The fact that the Mets were, as Manuel says, leaving the decision in his hands despite the seriousness of post-concussion syndrome speaks to either incompetence or negligence or both.

Are the Mets so desperate to win that they'd willingly risk a player's health over it, or do they simply not know any better?

8 comments:

Chris Needham said...

I think I've mentioned it here. Maybe at Primer. anyway...

I think part of the 'problem' is Church himself. While with the Nats, he got a reputation (unfairly) as someone who wouldn't play through pain. In one case, he broke a toe, and took some criticism for sitting a few games out -- both from the players, and management.

I imagine he's hypersensitive to these sorts of things now, and would probably push himself through it even more than he would've in the past. "Just a headache? I'm not a wus! I can play through this." that sorta thing.

Osmodious said...

Actually, I DO think that the Mets are that desperate to win...it's some kind of weird NY thing that I've never understood (though I am fairly certain that the Daily News/NY Post, MicroSoft, and GW Bush are somehow to blame...maybe just the newspapers).

I've seen the Yankees do similar things in the past...actually, I've also seen them attempt to destroy their own chances to win by playing guys who were too injured to play (Sheffield a few years back...could barely even LIMP to 1st base, but he was in there every single day, costing them victories).

This is a topic that deserves some exploration, I think...

Travis M. Nelson said...

Speaking of bad things about the NFL, you left out one of the better summations of said sport, from Goerge Will (paraphrasing Winston Churchill):

"...football combines the two worst features of American life. It's violence punctuated by committee meetings."

Bob Timmermann said...

I thought that Church had spoken wit Corey Koskie who could have told him about the problems with trying to play with a concussion.

Ryan Church should be told that heads come one to a customer and there are no returns or replacements once you leave the window.

melodyjbf said...

Great quote Travis-- I've used that one many times. Re. the NFL, I'm no expert on their medical care, but judging from what I've read over the past couple of years (regarding battles over concussion treatment, etc), it's not so great for the players. Team doctors seem to feel that their primary allegiance is to the team, not the players. And with a short season and non-guaranteed contracts, what interest does the team have other than getting the most out of each player as long as he lasts? Not a great setup for players' long-term health.

Osmodious said...

Well, to be a little fair to the teams, their primary responsibility shouldn't necessarily be the long-term health of an athlete. These days, sports is big business, and players are products that have to meet certain expectations to be of any value. Don't think that I am agreeing with that POV, I'm just pointing out the sad truth...and looking at it from their perspective (investment vs. return, etc.), you can kind of understand it.

To me the bigger issue is that these teams claim that they DO consider the long term health of the players...in fact, they often proclaim that it is their #1 priority. That is disingenuous, to say the least. Either be honest (fans would understand it, I think...since the money ultimately comes from their pockets...and if they didn't like it they would stand up and protest), or put your money where your mouth is and actually make the long-term plans for these guys...

Terry said...

I've had 5 concussions (football, car crashes, stupid stunt, etc) and, after the last, I had post concussion syndrome for 6 days. I was lucky it only lasted that long. There was nothing the neurologists could do. I felt fine mostly, a bit tired, but whenever I tried to walk around I would get a crushing headache, have difficulty breathing and start vomiting. Then, I lay down one day, woke up and was better. It was just gone. I am sorry to bore you all with that, but the point I am trying to make is that I don't think it is necessarily the Mets being negligent or Church false reporting. It just simply is that you feel fine and then, out of nowhere, you don't (I forgot to mention an abortive attempt to go to work on day 4). The worst thing about it is that there is nothing that can be done. I hope that he will soon wake up and be fine. I remember how awful it is to wonder if you will ever be functional again and my living was not dependent on being able to play ball, as his is.

Osmodious said...

Terry, thanks for the insight...never heard the perspective directly from a PCS sufferer before.