Hilarious. But in the human cranium, fragile brain tissue has collided with the skull, causing bruising, the tearing of blood vessels and possible injury to delicate nerves.Not so funny. Catchers are particularly susceptible to concussions due to head-on crashes at the plate and especially from 90-mph pitches ricocheting at warp speed off bats. Giants backstop Mike Matheny's season ended on May 31 when he was jolted by a foul tip in Florida after previously taking a hard shot on the helmet from a backswing. Last Tuesday in Colorado, rookie catcher Eliezer Alfonzo suffered a mild concussion on a foul tip and was finally cleared to play in Friday night's game in Milwaukee. Matheny's situation was deadly serious, but in the long run, it was a blessing.
Because of a myriad of unanswered questions surrounding the severe injury, the Giants medical staff decided to conduct a detailed study of baseball concussions, masks and symptoms that will enable athletic trainers and others to protect athletes from debilitation and other consequences.Giants head athletic trainer Stan Conte will present the results of two ongoing concussion studies at baseball's Winter Meetings this December in Orlando, Fla. Eventually two scientific papers will be published on baseball concussions, authored by Conte, team internist Dr. Anthony Saglimbeni, others on the Giants medical staff and University of Pittsburgh's head trauma specialist Dr. Mickey Collins. "We've surveyed every Minor League and Major League catcher with a series of 13 questions on foul tips," said Conte. "Out of 600 catchers professionally, we've gotten over 250 responses, and almost every Major League catcher has responded."
The study details what the players think of different masks -- conventional or hockey style -- if they've had concussions, and how many, along with what symptoms they had and for how long."We're also reviewing over 13,000 pitches on videotape of the San Francisco Giants in 2006 and how many times a catcher gets hit," said Conte, "along with where he gets hit and what part of the mask."
In the past, players might have been put back in action prematurely, and the study will determine post-concussion guidelines."The idea is to get the information out so when you get a Mike Matheny situation you can go to the medical information," said Conte. "We want to filter that down into Little League. Is it safe to be a catcher? Relatively speaking, it is safe compared to playing football." Kline a daddy again: Relief pitcher Steve Kline was expected to rejoin the Giants on Friday night after attending the birth of his second daughter, Mia Rose, on Wednesday in Montreal. Mia was 7 pounds, 2 ounces and 20 inches long. Kline and wife Martine also have a 4-year-old daughter, Audrey. Coming up: Lefty Noah Lowry (7-10, 4.70 ERA) hopes to rebound from the worst start of his career when he faces the Brewers on Saturday at Miller Park. He gave up nine runs on nine hits, including two homers, over 1 1/3 innings last Monday in Colorado. Southpaw Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.67) will start for Milwaukee.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.