the sports section

Cutting David Wright a Break

The Mets have suffered a ridiculous litany of injuries this season, but the one to David Wright over the weekend might be the worst to befall the team in 2009. Wright took a 94-mph fastball from San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain right off his helmet Saturday afternoon, and he spent the evening in the hospital before being released with “post-concussion symptoms.” The Mets, after waiting a few hours, finally put him on the disabled list. It’s a smart, proactive move — concussions in baseball are so much more serious than people realize.

Because baseball doesn’t require you to be punched in the head or thrown to the ground by 350-pound men, concussions traditionally haven’t been a major issue. But that’s changed in recent years; baseball teams, renowned for rub-some-dirt-on-it-and-get-out-there-and-play attitudes toward head injuries, haven’t quite adjusted. These are traumatic injuries that can cause chemical changes in the brain, but baseball has treated them like the ankle twist that you can just walk off. The Mets have been among the worst offenders when it comes to concussions.

One year ago, Ryan Church, thought to be one of the Mets’ top young players, collided with Marlon Anderson on a pop fly and got a concussion. The team then put him in as a pinch hitter the very next day, and then, compounding the problem, let him fly with the team to Colorado. The long flight and the high altitude made Church’s problems worse, and he began having migraines and dizziness, issues that stuck with him into the next season. (He was ultimately traded to Atlanta earlier this year for Jeff Francoeur.) He has said that continuing to play, and fly, in the wake of the injury has led to lingering issues.

He’s not the only baseball player to receive improper treatment for a concussion. Johnny Damon still talks about the fatigue he felt for months after a collision in the 2003 ALDS, Jim Edmonds said he used to “not remember passing off-ramps” while driving home, and some players, like former catcher Mike Matheny, were driven out of the league because of post-concussion-related issues.

As others have pointed out, the Mets’ initial reaction to Wright’s injury — manager Jerry Manuel, when asked why Wright wasn’t on the DL, said, “I think I would give him the benefit of the doubt” — was not encouraging. After their win over the Giants, though, the Mets announced that Wright was DL-bound. It’s an obvious move: The team is going nowhere, and absolutely nothing good can come out of him returning to the diamond anytime soon.

Cutting David Wright a Break