There has been much news lately about the damaging effects of concussions endured by football players. But new reports have shown the problem is afflicting baseball players as well. Major League Baseball (MLB) is reporting its first official case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The player was Ryan Freel, who committed suicide in December 2012.
Freel played for five different clubs, including the Cincinnati Reds from 2003 through 2008, in his nine-year MLB career. Freel was known to be a hard-nosed player who sacrificed his body, if needed, to get an out. It wasn’t unusual for him to hit the outfield wall running full steam in pursuit of a ball.
The presence of CTE in Freel was confirmed by doctors at the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and Sports Legacy Institute. This is the same medical center that studies CTE in football players. The center reports that the nature of the CTE in Freel likely was caused by repeated hits to the head.
The center has stated that when it comes to the development of CTE, the injury requires repetitive brain trauma and not just a couple of big concussions.
MLB is already in the process of prohibiting collisions at home plate in an attempt to reduce the risk of head injuries. This move has been controversial amongst baseball traditionalists, but may gain support after the discovery surrounding Freel’s death.
Last summer, the National Football League (NFL) agreed to a settlement with retired players concerning the effects of repeated concussions on the job. More is now known about the long-term dangers of head injuries. Several high profile suicides have highlighted the fact that CTE, caused by repeated brain trauma, can cause dementia, memory loss, and depression.