A few years back, MLB was confronted by a new problem. Well, concussions weren't "new" but the focus on them was. As players, especially catchers, were seen to have problems, MLB did something. Led by Athletic Trainers and several ex-players, including Mike Matheny, a new policy was quickly put in place to diagnose and monitor concussions throughout baseball.
The system has, for the most part, worked. There are always issues, but with any system, there will be exceptions. The seven-day concussion DL and the protocols in place for clearing a player to return after a concussion have been a success. The NFL is still iterating its system and not showing the same results that MLB has so far.
There were two concussions this week that bring the issue back up, showing the two key mechanisms. Buster Posey took a hard foul off his mask and was lifted from the game once he complained of symptoms. Posey wasn't back in the lineup until Tuesday, according to NBC Sports (via Yahoo! Sports), and the Giants figure to watch him closely. Shifting him to first will help some, but that's been part of their plan all along.
Michael Brantley was kneed in the head on a slide, a similar mechanism to what we've seen with Justin Morneau and others in the past. The play is simply awkward, and some think that changes in the "neighborhood play" with replay have made this even more dangerous. It's far too small a sample to make any informed decision, but this would be easy to tweak if necessary.
Catching concussions are a tough problem, though advances with helmet technologies are promising. For sliding players, there's a more simple fix. Players should wear tighter helmets, which is easily correctable, but we may need to shift to a dual-cushion system. Perhaps there will be batting helmets and "sliding helmets" in the future, since the forces of a hard ball to the mask and a knee to the head are far different.
Posey was able to return quickly, but Brantley is still undergoing tests, according to the AP, via ESPN.com, after suffering both head and neck issues. Both players are well served by MLB's concussion policy, and we can only hope Brantley is back as quickly and easily as Posey.
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