Why Isn’t The MLB Protecting Pitchers From Brain Injury

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When you think of baseball, most people don’t think about brain injuries. With high profile more violent sports like hockey and football, baseball seems incredibly innocent and peaceful, aside from the occasional fights that break out on the field. Maybe this is why the vast majority of the players on the field do not wear head protection of any kind. However, that exactly lack of precaution could soon lead to baseball joining the concussion conversation very soon.

According to Bleacher Report, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ took a frighting line drive to the head a little over a month ago. Despite some worry of brain injury, Happ was fortunate to only receive a contusion and laceration to his left ear. Immediately after, many spoke out calling for the MLB to be proactive and provide some sort of protective headgear for pitchers directly in the line of fire of batters.

Nothing changed, and the discussion disappeared.

Alex Cobb being carried off via stretcher

Cobb being loaded onto a stretcher
Source: WikiCommons

This week, Tampa Blue Rays pitcher Alex Cobb was caught on the side of his head by a line drive. He immediately fell to the ground, clutching his head. He was carried off the field by stretcher and taken to Bayfront Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a mild concussion.

Within minutes, the demand for the MLB to protect their pitchers better returned, much stronger.

These injuries aren’t isolated Arizona Diamondbacks player Brandon McCarthy suffered a brain injury from similar circumstances last September that required McCarthy to undergo brain surgery and caused him to suffer seizures.

The MLB has been considering and testing padded caps for pitchers, however as of yet all testing has been voluntary and with unsatisfactory results. While a new, specialized headgear would be great, it would require a much more focused push for research, and new rules making protective headgear mandatory for pitchers.

It took the MLB until the 1950’s to require batting helmets, more than thirty years after the death of Ray Chapman who was killed by a pitch straight to his head. We can’t, and shouldn’t wait until a new player death occurs for changes to happen. It is time for the MLB to step up and protect their players.

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