Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stephen Drew, concussions, and responsible journalism

I was listening to sports radio this morning in the car when the topic of Stephen Drew came up. The hosts thought that being kept out of the lineup with minor concussion (which is a league rule), proved that "he really is  JD Drew's brother." Get it? Because JD Drew was obviously fragile and wimpy, and minor concussions are totally no big deal!

Well, first of all, JD Drew was one of my personal favorites - can't we just let him enjoy his retirement without making him the butt of jokes all the time? But more importantly, concussions are not a joke. Stephen Drew got hit in the helmet on Thursday while batting, didn't show any symptoms immediately, but later that night his vision began to blur. The team took action as required by Major League Baseball.

It is a Major League Baseball rule that any player exhibiting signs of a concussion must be cleared before returning to regular play:
Protocols for clearing a concussed player or umpire to return to activity; prior to the time that a concussed player is permitted to play in any game (including Major League, Minor League or extended Spring Training games), the Club must submit a "Return to Play" form to MLB's Medical Director; submission of the form is required irrespective of whether the player was placed on the Disabled List.
You can read the rest of MLB's concussion regulations here.

More importantly, concussions are a serious and growing problem among younger and younger athletes, many of whom hide or downplay their symptoms in an attempt to stay on the field - to the serious detriment of their health and cognitive function. When radio personalities (and any other media members) downplay the seriousness of concussions, when they equate professional athletes who sit out when concussed to wimps, they send the message to kids that concussions are no big deal, that they should be able to play through them.

Playing through concussions is dangerous and irresponsible, and insinuating otherwise is likewise dangerous and irresponsible. Not only is Drew simply following the rules, he's being smart.

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