Friday, October 9, 2015

Could Stephen Drew’s Vestibular Concussion Explain His Woes in 2014/2015?

The end of Stephen Drew’s tenure with the New York Yankees came to an abrupt halt this season when the Yankees second baseman was diagnosed with a vestibular concussion late in September. Drew had a pretty severe concussion in 2013 when he was a member of the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox that took roughly three-and-a-half months to fully heal and recover from according to reports. Could that concussion and the lingering side effects be the reason or explanation for his less than stellar 2014 and 2015 campaigns?

A concussion is a serious brain injury and is very difficult to assess and treat as MRIs and CT scans are almost always normal. If not treated properly, these concussions can cause both short- and long-term problems. One treatment that is getting more and more attention is the use of vestibular physical therapy for individuals who have been concussed.

When someone first sustains a concussion, the initial treatment is rest. At that time they should be managed by their physician. Studies show that 80% of those who suffer a concussion have their symptoms go away completely within the first three weeks. Unfortunately, some people have symptoms that last even longer. Common symptoms include headaches, blurry vision, nausea, dizziness, noise and light sensitivity, balance difficulties, difficulty with concentrating, difficulty remembering, difficulty sleeping, and/or emotional symptoms. Oftentimes a concussed person will complain of difficulty with driving, difficulty with reading a computer, difficulty reading books, and difficulty changing gaze focus. One of the most common complaints that vestibular therapists hear is that they just feel “off” or “foggy.”

In a game where everything is analyzed and in a game where a matter of inches can make or break you every single play of every single night battling a head injury has to be difficult. The problem for Drew is, and I am speculating here as I do not have concrete evidence to back up this statement, that he reportedly felt fine and had no lingering effects of a concussion until almost the end of September. For all we know the problem may have been minor enough to adjust to or not even notice in your everyday life but it could have been something that could make or break you when trying to judge a pitch at 100 MPH.

An interesting nugget specifically linked to sports figures with vestibular concussions from medscape:

"Therefore, if this system is compromised in some way following concussion, it makes sense that a reaction time would be slowed. This is an important point, as athletes with this impaired reaction time may be at greater risk for subsequent injury until they are no longer impaired."

The participants in the study had sustained their injuries more than 21 days earlier and completed computerized neurocognitive tests and symptom reports at their initial clinical visits. They also received vestibular screening, which includes clinical interview and exams evaluating vestibular dizziness and vestibulo-spinal and vestibulo-ocular domains.

To be honest we’ll probably never know what happened to Drew and whether it was this concussion or Father Time merely catching up to him and his bat in 2014 and 2015. The article above says that most MRI's CT scans or tests come back normal. If the Yankees feel like they get nip this concussion in the bud then I am all for a bounce back type season on the New York bench in 2016 because at least now we may have a reason for his struggles instead of merely grasping at straws. 

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