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Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 05, 2011
It's easy to say that baseball's sudden interest in concussions and the idea for a seven-day DL is a great idea.¬† Injuries to stars like Jason Bay and Justin Morneau have put concussions in the spotlight in this sport in much the same way it has in contact sports.¬† Certainly there is no doubt that preventing injuries like this is important.
What the rule is supposed to do is allow players a short time to discover if they have concussion symptoms following a blow to the head by giving them a few days off instead of rushing them back onto the field, while allowing the team greater roster flexibility and not forcing them to push a player to the 15 day DL when he might be better in just 4-5 days. ¬† That's because at least some of the authorities specializing in the handling of mild brain injuries feel that most mild concussions clear up in under a week.¬† If the player isn't ready to come back after seven days, he'll automatically be transferred to the 15-day DL.
But the idea of a DL for a specific injury doesn't sit well with me, and despite all of the safeguards that MLB tried to put into this rule to prevent its abuse, I think it's only a matter of time, probably days, before some smart managers starts doing just that.
First, though, let's talk about the safeguards that MLB claims will prevent teams from abusing the seven-day DL with non concussion injuries.
1) Each team needs to designate a doctor who'll examine and evaluate the injured player.
2) Medical records from that doctor and a report on the injury with as much detail as possible will have to be submitted to Dr. Gary Green, MLB's medical director -- who'll also have to approve the player being taken off the DL following a concussion.
Yeah that'll do it.
Essentially any team with a slightly injured player who is willing to collude with their own trainers will send that mild ankle sprain to a specialist with a story about the "empty soda can that hit me in the back of the head while the guys were fooling around" or "I banged my head on my locker," or even that "terrible sunflower seed spitting injury where the third baseman wasn't looking when he spat them right at me and now I'm dizzy and nauseous."
And every specialist will document that the patient told him of a blow to the head and now is dizzy and list that they suspect a mild brain injury.¬† Few if any will be subjected to major procedures like a CT scan or MRI as such tests only really make sure the brain isn't bruised or bleeding.¬† The doctor will then suggest the universal treatment for a concussion, rest.
Managers have already said how great a seven-day DL would be for those minor little injuries that crop up during the season, but don't justify a trip to the 15-day DL (paraphrasing of Tampa's Joe Maddon).¬† And no doubt that some smart team and set of executives are going to realize that a $500 visit to the doctor will essentially get them a note that will allow them to utilize that short DL and gain some roster flexibility for a few days when they need it now and then.
So while I applaud the idea of a seven-day DL, I think saving this "special" disabled list for players who are suspected of having a concussion, something that is rarely definitively diagnosed, make no sense.¬† I'm sure it makes little sense to most fans either, as what they want is for the hometown nine to put on the best show, with the best athletes they have available on any given day and could care less about seemingly arbitrary rules designed to restrict roster flexibility
If the seven-day DL makes sense, make it universal.¬† Leave out the doctors and the manipulation of the system that teams are going to feel compelled to abuse.¬† This is a silly rule and the more you think about it, the more it seems like a publicity stunt than a rule that is actually going to change the game for the better.