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"Concussions" by Dr. David Kuechle M.D.

Any of you who have ever donned the tools of ignorance have probably had your bell rung at one time or another, from a foul tip or an errant backswing. Catchers aren't the only players at risk, however - collisions can happen anywhere on the field. Also, runners, fielders and even base coaches (or spectators) can be hit in the head by a batted or thrown ball. The net result is that head trauma, while not as prevalent as in collision sports like football or hockey, is still a fairly common occurence in baseball. With that in mind, in this blog I will discuss concussions - what happens during a concussion, what the symptoms are, what the risks are and a little about care of the concussed athlete. Then, I will go into prevention and provide a summary of the current thought regarding helmets - both for batting and for catching.

The brain is about the consistency of jello. It floats blissfully inside your noggin in a sea of liquid called cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid helps to cushion the brain from trauma. When a person suffers a concussion, typically a direct blow to the head shakes the brain violently, and the brain is injured. The symptoms of a concussion can vary. Sometimes you can be knocked out, but not always. In fact, in the majority of concussion, there is no loss of consciousness. More common initial symptoms of concussion include headache, memory loss (usually of the causative event but sometimes for hours or even days), confusion, dizzyness, "seeing stars" - or I suppose chirping birdies, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, delayed response to questions, fatigue ... etc. Later (hours to days) after the event, a concussed person might note difficulty with concentration or memory, irritability or anxiety, difficulty sleeping, sensitivity to light or noise, taste or smell changes, or depression. There is a special condition, called "post concussion syndrome", that can occur some days after the injury - usually 7-10 days after the concussion, with symptoms similar to those decribed above that can last for weeks to months.

In every concussion, there is some degree of injury to the brain. The brain needs time and rest to recover. There are chemical, and in some cases, structural changes that take place in brain after injury that take time to heal and stabilize. Most concussed patients fully recover. Treatment is fairly straightforward . Rest is very important. It is advisable for the concussed athlete to avoid activities that elevate heart rate until the symptoms resolve. This also includes non-strenuous activites (computers, reading, watching television) that increase symptoms. Sometimes patients are advised to take time off work if work activity worsens symptoms. Analgesics (like acetominophen) can be helpful, but anti-inflammatories like Aleve (naproxen), aspirin or Advil (ibuprofen) are discouraged because they can thin the blood slightly which can increase bleeding from the injury, creating a potentially very serious problem. For severe symptoms such as increasing headache, marked behavioral changes, loss of coordination, confusion or disorientation, speech changes, seizures, visual or pupil shape changes, or if the injury results in loss of consciousness for greater than 30 seconds, the concussed player needs to be evaluated in the emergency room. Really, if there is any question, it is better to be checked out by a doctor sooner rather than later.

Regarding return to play, there are some clear guidelines. If you sustain a concussion, you are done for the day. No concussed athlete should return to play the same day as the injury. In fact, return to sports needs to wait until the player is completely free of symptoms from the concussion. If there is any doubt, I would advise seeing a neurologist or doctor trained in care of the concussed athlete prior to returning to sports. Also, there is an abundance of literature that documents player performance is significantly worse after returning from concussion, so there is no rush. More importantly, what we're trying to avoid is a permanent brain injury. The risk of seizures is doubled for 5 years after a concussion. Worse, there is a condition called "second inpact syndrome" wherein a second injury before the first has fully healed can result in rapid, often fatal, brain swelling. There is an abundance of literature from the NFL regarding "chronic traumatic encephalopathy" which is severe, permanent brain injury usually from repetitive brain injuries.

So, how do we prevent concussions? First, never bat against Eric Cole. Just kidding! Eric, you know I have much love for you! Also, you must have known the game in which you beaned me 3 times would come back to haunt you some day! Seriously though, having the right helmet is key. From a batting standpoint, there are a few considerations. In general, it is recommended that the helmet fit you well. Also, wearing anything under your helmet such as a baseball cap ( more of an issue for catchers perhaps) can reduce the effectiveness of the helmet. The one possible exception to this might be Lee Smith's mullet, which may provide some additional protection. For those of you who have been know to throw your helmet when it obviously caused you to strike out with the bases loaded, cracked helmets are "no bueno" - if you think your helmet was out to get you before, wait until you take one in the earhole when there is a crack in it. Last, there is the 1 vs. 2 earflap debate. One earflap helmets are generally sexier than two flappers. Those of us who wear the two flapped helmets resemble Kazoo at times. But from a safety standpoint, the double flap helmet offers some advantages, such as a snugger fit with more padding, and additional protection when you are running the bases since you can't always turn the flap towards the incoming throw. Also, if you're a switch hitter, two flaps means one helmet. Rawlings has helmets made from carbon fiber that are supposedly 300% stiffer and 130 times stronger than plastic, and are rated to withstand certain velocities, such as the s100 which is designed to withstand velocities up to 100 MPH. A brief look on line found these to be pretty spendy. However, they also make an s90, s80 ... etc, which are more reasonable. If you have the good fortune to ever bat when I'm on the hill, you'll be happy to know you'll only need an s37, which costs five bucks and is made of duct tape, coffee grounds and the comics section from the Sunday newspaper.

Regarding catcher's helmets, the debate centers around whether to wear a hockey-style helmet, or the more traditional skull-cap style. In a nutshell, the hockey style helmets provide better protection for the ear, face and side of the head, with arguably better field of view because the mask is closer to the catcher's face. The downside of the hockey-style mask is that it is harder to remove for pop-ups. Some people also feel the traditional skull-cap style provides better protection against direct frontal trauma, such as foul tips, because the mask has more padding and because it's farther from the face, the mask disperses the energy from the ball better. This seems to be mostly opinion, though, and I couldn't find much hard data to support this. In general, most experts feel both hockey-style and traditional catcher's helmets offer similar protection to direct trauma from foul tips, while the hockey-style mask provides better protection to the face and side of the head.

So there you have it. The take home message is concussions are serious business. There is no value and potentially major, even fatal downside in trying to return from a concussion too early or in delaying evaluation or treatment following a significant brain injury. When in doubt, go see a doctor. Also, be kind to your helmet. It didn't mean to make you strike out.

"Day at the Show VI" Recap

It was another great "Day At The Show" Sunday, June 28th! For the sixth time since 2006, players from the PSSBL participated in exhibition games at Safeco Field and enjoyed a major league experience for a day. 72 players, representing every one of our nine divisions, took part in an exhilarating experience while raising money for the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Several courageous Make-A-Wish kids, battling life-threatening afflictions, came out to throw ceremonial first pitches. Thousands of dollars were raised for Make-A-Wish, which means several kids will have their wishes granted.

The day kicked off with a home plate ceremony recognizing the 2015 Classes of the PSSBL Hall of Fame as well as a Career Achievement Award recipient. Congratulations to 2015 inductees Brian Bill, Fernando Da Silva, Dan Galaz, Kelly Morton, and Bill Ralston! Special career recognition for Ken Combs!

In addition to acknowledging the players who paid a premium dues surcharge to participate, special thanks go out to P.A. Announcer Mark Aucutt, the Seattle Mariners, Safeco Field & Staff, Make-A-Wish Alaska® & Washington, the U.S.S. Nimitz Honor Guard, Christina Gilton, Mic Stump, Randy Inghram, Geoff Vicek, PSUA, NBUA, Jeff Kyger, Paul, Davison, Josh Whall, Scott Dillinger, Tom Layson, Marty Bigelow, Chris Carlucci, Johnny Brown, and AJ Hansen.

2015 PSSBL Draft Complete!

The 2015 PSSBL Draft was held Saturday, March 28th, at Sport Restaurant & Bar in Seattle. Thanks to all the tryout players who are now members of the non-profit PSSBL. We hope you have a fun summer in the league with your new team. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped run the tryouts, to all the GM's and other team representatives, and to the Board members for their tireless efforts. Thanks also to Sport Restaurant for their hospitality during our draft day event.

While every effort was made to place tryout players on a PSSBL team or in a desired division, that was not always possible. Refunds will be forthcoming to the players who were not drafted, and partial refunds will be credited to players who paid for a longer season than the one for which they were actually drafted.

With 65 teams across 9 divisions and well over 1,000 players, the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League continues to be the premiere adult sports league - not only in the Puget Sound region, but one of the biggest and best in the U.S.

2015 REGISTRATION IS OPEN!

Online registration for the 2015 PSSBL baseball season is now available. New and returning players can register now. If you're a returning player, log in using your email address and password and follow the prompts. New players can set up an account and register for the draft (see article below regarding the 2015 Tryouts) or join a team as a pre-approved "buddy pick". Do NOT register for the tryouts and draft if you are supposed to be a "buddy pick".

As you register for your 2015 team(s), you will also be invited to volunteer for the Taxi Pool. Taxi Pool players may be called upon to substitute for a team which is short of players for a particular game. There is no extra charge to be on the Taxi Pool list if you are a paid, Active member of the PSSBL, and you'll be providing a service to the league.

Returning players need to pay their dues in full before 11:59pm on March 25, 2015 or they will be charged the higher New Player rate.

Make sure to tell your friends and acquaintances about the league tryouts March 8th at Meridian Park, March 15th at Bannerwood Park, and March 21st at Bellevue College. The league-wide PSSBL draft will be March 28th.

If you have questions, concerns, or other issues regarding registration, please contact support@pssbl.com.

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Have a great 2015 baseball season!

2015 Tryout Dates Set!

The Puget Sound Senior Baseball League (PSSBL), one of the largest amateur adult baseball leagues in the U.S., will conduct open tryouts for all baseball players, age 19 and over, during the course of three weekends in March. The 2015 tryouts start on Sunday, March 8th, at Meridian Park in Shoreline. Players age 35 & over should attend the 10:30am-1pm session (check in at 10:00am). Players age 19 & over should attend the 1-4pm session (check in at 12:30pm). Note: March 8th is the first day of Daylight Savings Time.

Click HERE for 2015 league information.

Other tryout dates (morning and afternoon age groups are the same, but start times shift to 9am and 12-noon):

  • Sunday, March 15th - Bannerwood Park in Bellevue
  • Saturday, March 21st - Bellevue College

Those who turn 19 any time during the 2015 calendar year - even as late as December 31, 2015 - are eligible to join the league this season. There is no fee to try out for the PSSBL. Players may attend one, two, or all three tryout dates. Meridian Park is located at 16765 Wallingford Avenue North in Shoreline. Bannerwood Park is at 1790 Richards Road in Bellevue. Bellevue College is located at 3000 Landerholm Circle SE in Bellevue.

The non-profit PSSBL is comprised of over 1,000 players forming 66 teams in nine different divisions. The divisions are organized based on age and skill level, ranging from highly competitive to purely recreational. Formed in 1989, this year marks the PSSBL's 27th season of operation. See you at the tryouts!