Former Catcher for the Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer drew national attention and criticism after news of his switch to first base was recently released to the public. In a game on Aug. 19, Mauer took a foul tip off his catcher’s mask and subsequently suffered a concussion. Mauer missed the last six weeks of the season, and his concussion symptoms lasted into the offseason.
While many have criticized Mauer for giving up his position as catcher, the Twins organization and Mauer felt that switching to first base was the safest decision. The position of catcher is the position with the highest risk of injury anywhere on the baseball diamond—consequently it wasn’t worth it for Mauer to put himself back into a high-risk position.
According to the Mayo Clinic, concussions are traumatic brain injuries that alter the way the brain functions. Concussions are typically caused by a blow to the head, but can also occur when one’s upper body and head are shaken violently.
Symptoms of concussions include headache, temporary loss of consciousness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and fatique. While most of these symptoms are temporary, concussion symptoms can last for days, weeks, or even months. Those who suffer concussions may experience trouble concentrating, loss of memory, sensitivity to light and noise, and even depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The best way to treat concussions is rest—both physical and mental. When concussions are sustained from competitive sports, athletes will often need to take time off before returning to their sport.
Once people have sustained one concussion, subsequent concussions become more serious. Multiple concussions can lead to serious, lasting effects on the brain, or even death.
The Twins organization has dealt with concussions before—star third baseman Corey Koskie’s career was derailed by a concussion he sustained during the 2006 season. Koskie dealt with post-concussion symptoms for four years before deciding to retire from baseball in order to not further risk his health.
Four-time All-Star and former first baseman for the Twins, Justin Morneau’s career hasn’t been the same since he suffered multiple concussions playing baseball. While he has since recovered and no longer experiences the symptoms of his concussions, Morneau may never be the same MVP-caliber player he once was.
Concussions are serious injuries and should not be taken lightly. Those who are criticizing Mauer for protecting his health and making the switch to first base are out of line.
Mauer made the right decision by choosing to move to first base. As both Koskie and Morneau’s unfortunate injuries have proven, recovering from a concussion can take more than just a few weeks off. Neither of these players were the same after sustaining their concussions, and it’s a mistake to think that Mauer will be able to return to his peak form after his concussion. While this switch marks the end of an era for the Twins, moving away from the most dangerous position in baseball was the right decision because it gives Mauer the opportunity to continue playing the sport he excels at.