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March 24, 2014

Baseball Therapy

The Complicated Recoveries of Aroldis Chapman and Salvador Perez

by Russell A. Carleton


Last Wednesday night, something truly awful occurred in a spring training game between the Royals and Reds. In the sixth inning, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was getting in some work and faced off against Royals catcher Salvador Perez. In the regular season, that matchup would be compelling stuff, but this was just a fake game, so no one thought much of it. You’ve probably seen the replay of what happened next: Perez squared one up and hit a line drive that caught Chapman in the face. Chapman was taken off the field by stretcher and the game was called off.

Thankfully, Chapman received immediate medical care. Reports are that he was diagnosed as having sustained fractures in his face and a mild concussion. That’s most certainly not a good thing, but as several have pointed out, he could have ended up with much worse. In fact, there are reports that Chapman might be able to pitch in late April if his recovery goes well.

However, there’s more to heal here than just Chapman’s facial bones. The big question on everyone’s mind seems to be how Chapman will heal psychologically. His arm was not affected, and with proper medical care, I trust that his bones will heal. But will he have trouble functioning as a major-league pitcher when he comes back because he’s too traumatized by this event? What of the fact that he was diagnosed as having a concussion? And what of Salvador Perez who, as was clear in the replay, was horrified by what happened? What about everyone else associated with the game who no doubt saw the replay?

If the reader might indulge me while I put on my other hat … I hold a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and while I have never met either Chapman or Perez, I can at least speak intelligently as to what the data out there suggest we might expect after an event like this. So I propose to look at the matter from the perspective of Chapman, Perez, and baseball more generally.

The Neuroanatomy of a Pitcher
Initial reports in the aftermath of the line drive were encouraging: Chapman had never lost consciousness, and he was moving his arms and legs and communicating with the trainers (both Reds and Royals trainers ran out to help) and teammates.

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Kyle Matte

It's obviously on a much, much smaller scale and far less traumatic, but I hit three pitchers with line drives in my softball league last season. The fear of injuring another person was so engrained in my head that every time I stepped to the plate I was purposefully opening my front shoulder super early in an attempt to pull the ball down the left field line as opposed to crushing it up the middle or to left-center.

And these were body shot line drives that caused only bruising and "walk it off" injuries. I can't even fathom how it would feel to hit someone in the head and see them stretchered off.

Mar 24, 2014 07:22 AM
rating: 5
 
buddons42

I was that guy in my softball league last summer that got hit in the face and stretchered off. Luckily no concussion but broken jaw in 4 places and 2 fractured sinuses. Ouch. I was back on the mound about 2 months later. I started using a helmet with a full steel face mask and I'll fully admit even with the armor on I still had THAT thought in the back of my head every pitch for the rest of the season. We'll see if it gets any better this year, if not it might be time to give up pitching for good.

Mar 24, 2014 08:21 AM
rating: 6
 
Richie

Seems to me like pitchers are much more likely to suffer harm getting hit in the face rather than on the head. Is that factually so? If so, then we are talking mask rather than helmet.

Mar 24, 2014 09:26 AM
rating: 2
 
Michael Bodell
(89)

I think pitchers should be brought up wearing helmet/masks like a catcher/goalie. Pitchers don't really need tons of head movement or visibility, and if they learned from a young age it wouldn't feel weird.

Mar 25, 2014 00:59 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

If anything, pitcher head movement can throw off command.
But I think you are correct - they need to begin growing up that way.

Mar 25, 2014 04:34 AM
rating: 0
 
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