"Why players shouldn't hide injuries"*My personal story about a concussion I hid

On the television these days there is no shortage of injuries being displayed in the form of entertainment.  Many of us including myself love the sight of a big hit in the NFL where a player had his "bell rung".  As a former High School Head Coach injuries were matters I handled in conjunction with the expertise of trainers.  Baseball isn't like other high-contact sports in terms of career ending injury.  Nonetheless, some injuries will decrease the performance of players if not handled correctly by coaches, trainers, parents and the player themselves.  In this Pincer, I will discuss differences in hurt versus injured then share a personal story about hiding my symptoms from a concussion, and also dealing with other injuries.   Finally, I will encourage athletes of all ages not to handle it the same way. 

Hurting vs. Injured
Athletes put their bodies under daily stress to be the best they can be.  In many cases, the physical stress you know is a part of the deal much like opening a bank account will carry certain fees.  Most if not all of my baseball life I have had some soreness associated with throwing, running, or lifting weights.  There are some ailments you learn to handle.  For example, a sore arm that doesn't affect your normal velocity by a considerable amount is one you should play through.  On the flip side if you are throwing a baseball, and a shooting pain stops you from throwing freely, chances are you need to see your trainer for some care, that way you can give yourself the opportunity to perform at your best.  No athlete wants to feel like they are quitting on their team and themselves which is understandable but here's why you should give it more thought.  

Friend and former Co-Worker at IMG Academy Jean Troiano a Certified Athletic Trainer at Dartmouth College shares excellent information; 
 
Athletes face injuries in competition constantly and have to decide if it is something they can play through or not.  All too often athletes feel if they can handle the pain and compete through the weekend, they won’t be called soft or weak.  Unfortunately when fighting for a spot on a team many stay quiet and grind it out. When athletes do this to their bodies, they have to realize the consequences if they continue to play through injuries. The significant injury on everyone’s mind is concussions. Concussions are becoming more and more well-known across the country, the topic is arising in the news and media daily.  However, it has been a subject amongst researchers in the medical field and sports medicine world for some time.  Here is a list of the signs and symptoms I tell my athletes to look for with themselves and their teammates if ever involved in some collision, not just to their head but their body as well and to report to someone immediately; a headache, pressure in head, neck pain, balance problems or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, vision problems, hearing problems or ringing in the ear, “don’t feel right”, feeling “dinged or dazed”, confusion, feeling slowed down, drowsiness, fatigue or low energy, more emotional than usual, irritability, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering, sadness, nervous or anxious, sensitivity to light and sensitivity to noise.  I stress to my athletes that they may think these symptoms if only having a few isn't serious but if not treated appropriately it can inhibit them from daily life activities, prolong recovery and from playing the sport they love, so reporting is necessary.

My personal story

In 2008 after my return to the Milwaukee Brewers from the San Diego Padres in AAA, I was enjoying success quickly after my demotion.  I honestly believed within a few weeks I would return to the Big Leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers, the original organization with whom I began my career.  During a road trip in Oklahoma City playing against the Texas Rangers affiliate something very unfortunate happened, unfortunate in two ways.  But before I continue, let me make it very clear, my trainer at the time followed all protocols in place and did so thoroughly.  

My 1st at bat of the game I hit a double to left-field, and the left-fielder overthrew second base badly, and I made a dash for home.  What followed was a very close play at the plate; I dove head first and severely banged my head and immediately began to see stars.  In addition to this, I badly bruised my right wrist and wanted no part of leaving that game.   My athletic trainer began to check me for symptoms of a concussion which he started with a series of questions; 1st follow my finger, then what is my birthdate, and a few more test that I all passed.  What I failed to tell him were the stars immediately after impact hadn't gone away, and I promised him I was fine.  Next he checked my wrist; which hurt and again, I did some convincing that I could continue though I was in pain.  Throughout the course of that game, I was having difficulties with the lights.  My eyes had quickly become sensitive to them, but I battled through this issue.  I never had a concussion, and this was the problem.   I said to myself I got my bell rung, and this feeling will go away, but it didn't.  A few days later I began rehab for a severely brushed wrist in De Moises, Iowa, and my focus was getting my wrist healthy enough to get back out on the field.  Still very achy after a couple days but wanting badly to get back on the baseball field, I told my trainer I was ready.  My wrist was still very much an issue; the light sensitivity remained, and I stayed quiet.  My perspective was, there is no way this will last and what can anyone do?  Oh, by the way, I failed to mention while still a member of the San Diego Padres I started to develop soreness in my throwing arm and after this very same slide, it turned into bicep tendinitis, which finally landed me on the DL for the 1st time in my career!!!

Not much longer after the wrist, shoulder, and the blow to the head in Oklahoma City,  I caught chicken pox for the first time in my life from a teammate who had the shingles.  The chicken pox landed me on the DL for some 10-14 days; I don't know if any of you has had the chicken pox as an adult, but it has to be one of the worst non-life threaten illnesses to get.  For ten of those days, I couldn't handle any light what so ever, I was experiencing the worst migraines headaches and would sit on the floor of my bedroom in Franklin, TN afraid to move.  Though these symptoms accompanied the chicken pox, I was already dealing with the light sensitivity.  That summer I managed to hit .270 much to do with girth, but my symptoms from the blow with light sensitivity continued.... 

Major League Spring Training 2009

The following spring I received a Major League invite to the Seattle Mariners spring training camp and wasn't healthy at all.  That off-season I turned down an excellent winter ball contract in the Dominican because of my shoulder.  My shoulder remained injured, and my bicep tendinitis wouldn't go away for nothing; I tried acupuncture, stretching, icing, massage, shoulder exercises, but nothing worked.  At this point during the off-season, my issues with lights lessened some but my shoulder was the most physical issue I could feel, so I focused on that.  Ultimately, my shoulder issue came to the surface that spring and a demotion to Minor League camp followed, but my biggest issue was my inability to coordinate myself with bright lighting.  During hit and run drills that spring in front of Major League staff I was swinging and repeatedly missing while hitting against a pitching machine on a very bright sunny Arizona spring day.   But I still ignored, refused, or accepted what happened that previous year.  I made the simplest of errors defensively, and I quickly began to lose confidence in my abilities, and the tailspin didn't stop.   Knee tendinitis that same year didn't help and for the better part of 2 1/2 years, I was a shell of the player I once was.  Please take a look at my stats from 2009-2010 in baseball reference, this experience can explain the very sharp decline in performance, click the link and take a look at 2009-2010; http://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.cgi?id=crabbe001cal.  I started my search in 2009 first with Optometrist Doug Nikaitani Mariners vision specialist, someone responsible for Edgar Martinez's success back in the day.  Then in 2010 I spoke to a Blue Jays trainer about my vision issues as well and saw an eye doctor.  The conclusion from the Doc; I was stressed, and he prescribed Nike red tinted contacts that helped some but didn't cure it.  In 2011, things changed with the light sensitivity, and I got help with my vision issues from Blue Jays vision doctor Dr. Bill Harrison "Owner of www.Slowthegame.com.  Dr. Harrison retrained my eyes to focus and thankfully during this time light sensitivity issues were gone.  I won't go into every detail, but by the time I could recover, my status as a pro had changed, and it had everything to do with my lack of performance over a 3-year span.  I jokingly said to my wife a few days ago, I should try out this year, and her response was I will drive you there.  What if I would have been open about my light sensitivity?  Would it have changed the outcome? Would I still be playing?  That's the problem with not handling the issue correctly; I will never find out, and I don't want another young person to miss out on a chance to get help from any injury.  Handle it right away, and you will have a much better chance to have time work for you.

 A message to players and parents

Dr. Jamie Burnett, 
Chiropractic Physician
Performance Health and Rehab


Pretending to be healthy, when something is hurting almost always leads a      small problem turning into a much larger problem. For example, a minor knee strain or sprain could turn into a full-blown, season-ending ACL injury if it is not properly rehabbed and healed. Even more severe, collisions can cause concussions.   If a concussion is not treated properly, it could be life threatening. These small pains and strains are meant to be warning signs that something is not right. Most often, it is a mechanical problem that a coach or specialist can help the athlete correct.  Some injuries are unpreventable; however most injuries can be prevented.  The best way to prevent injuries is by working with a professional. It can be a strength coach, a specialist, a therapist, or someone who is an expert at your sport. A Preventive program can be implemented to build a solid foundation so that you can develop the skills necessary for your sport and prevent injuries.

Don't be afraid to speak up, you aren't weak, you are just smart!!!

Good Luck!!!!