Denver sports fans have been hearing a lot lately about the traumatic brain injuries that plague professional football players. Over the course of even just a season or two, these athletes suffer repeated blows to the head, causing long-term damage that may not only ruin their careers, but shorten their lives measurably by causing irreversible dementia and other serious neurological problems. Many former players have attempted to collect workers’ compensation or filed lawsuits against the NFL as a result.
But what about athletes of other professional sports? Although baseball doesn’t carry the same risks as football, players — especially pitchers — have been known to suffer brain injuries from line drives to the head. Thirteen years ago Boston Red Sox pitcher Bryce Florie was hit in the eye by a ball, and the resulting vision problems ultimately put an end to his career. More recently, J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays suffered a skull fracture last week from a line drive to his head.
Yet most baseball players are reluctant to wear any extra gear that could compromise their performance, even if it protects them from long-term brain damage. Even Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who spent a week in the hospital after suffering a serious brain injury from a baseball hit to the head, recently said that he would be unwilling to wear any of the protective gear that’s available for players in the field today.
Professional athletes are expected to tough out their injuries and keep on playing. Unfortunately, even in other occupations, people who are injured on the job often feel pressured to “walk off” any problems that result. When it comes to head injuries, this may be easy at first. The only early symptoms may be a headache or dizziness. But workers in any job environment should know that they have the right to safe working conditions, protective gear and the ability to file a workers’ compensation claim. No matter what your duties are, if you suffer an injury to the head or anywhere else, it’s important to take action. Seeking medical help and compensation isn’t a sign of weakness. It may be the smartest move you can make.
Source: Denver Post, “Column: Baseball must act now to protect pitchers,” Paul Newberry, May 10, 2013