20 September 2010

There's danger in them thar sports...

Couple of sports-related items for this post:

On Sunday, Cubs outfielder Tyler Colvin got speared with a splinter from a bat that shattered. He's out for the season. Currently he's in the hospital with a chest tube since the splinter punctured his lung. He'll live-but it'll be next year before he's playing.

The bat in question was made of maple instead of the traditional ash. Maple is a hardwood, but not as much as ash. I don't remember seeing bats shatter this much back even twenty years ago. MLB says that there is a shortage of ash for bat production, so we're stuck with maple. One wonders if it's time to look at the shape of the bat. As we all know, a baseball bat has a large contact area and a rather severe taper toward the hilt to save weight and allow the hitter to get around on the ball. There's obviously a lot of stress transmitted through that narrow handle which is contributing to all of the shattered and splintered bats. The older models of bat had a smaller 'sweet spot' and a much more gentle taper. It might be time to go back to that style for safety. We could go with aluminum bats-if one of those explodes the batter's taking TOO many 'roids-but the speed of the ball coming off an aluminum bat is faster than from a wooden one.

I've seen a lot of bats splinter, and the head of the bat go whizzing off into the stands, spinning like a helicopter blade. That more people haven't been hurt is a surprise. Hazard of the game, I suppose.

The second issue making the rounds of sport is the study of repeated concussions in football players. There appears to be a definite correlation between repeated head trauma and the occurrence of early onset Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and loss of motor skills in ex-players.  The average NFL player's life expectancy is several years less than that of the rest of the population. The NFL and the major colleges are beginning to note this and being really careful about having players with concussions go back into the game after getting the hit.

I wonder if the NFL has studied similar games like rugby and Australian rules football to see what the incidence of head trauma is in the average season, and how players fare after their careers. My theory is that those sports have smaller players and a lot less padding and armor, therefore there is less mass in a collision. Rugby and Aussie rules players don't weigh 325 lbs plus 25 pounds of armor and helmet. Not that you can't get a concussion in a rugby scrum-or a finger in the rectal socket if you have the ball-but one might think that the frequency of head injuries should be about the same for all of the ball/contact sports. Thoughts/links, anyone?

yankeedog out.


  1. The head isn't a legit target in rugby or AFL - much of the concussive injury in NFL relates to helmet-to-helmet or helmet-to-ground contact, whereas head clashes are considered rare in rugby or AFL. Probably more common in football (soccer) if anything through collisions when going for headers etc

  2. Sounds like MLB haven't worked out the game stops if there's no bats to use. If there's that much money in it why not a proper set of tree plantations?

  3. Doc-The head isn't a legit target in the NFL either, but it's tempting to use that helmet as a ram or grab the facemask. All that extra gear in gridiron provides a lot of handholds.

    I'd still like to see a comparative study among the three sports.

    Bangar-Not a bad idea. I'd think someone could make some money with an ash tree plantation. Probably takes 50 years to grow a decent ash tree, though, so you'd be in it for the long haul.