Short-Term Outcomes of Concussions in Major League Baseball: A Historical Cohort Study of Return to Play, Performance, Longevity, and Financial Impact.
Ramkumar PN., Navarro SM., Haeberle HS., Pettit RW., Miles TJ., Frangiamore SJ., Mont MA., Farrow LD., Schickendantz MS.
Background: The short-term outcomes of concussions within Major League Baseball (MLB) warrant further consideration beyond a medical standpoint given that performance, career, and financial data remain unknown. The perception of this injury directly affects decision making from the perspective of both player and franchise. Purpose: To evaluate the effect of concussion on MLB players by (1) establishing return-to-play (RTP) time after concussion; (2) comparing the career length and performance of players with concussion versus those who took nonmedical leave; and (3) analyzing player financial impact after concussion. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: Contracts, transactions, injury reports, and performance statistics from 2005 to 2017 were analyzed by comparing matched players who sustained a concussion versus those who took nonmedical leave. Of the 4186 eligible MLB players, 145 sustained concussions resulting in the activation of concussion protocol and 538 took nonmedical leave. RTP time was recorded. Career length was analyzed in reference to an experience-based stratification of full seasons remaining after the concussion. Changes in player performance and salary before and after concussion were compared with the same parameters for players who took nonmedical leave. Results: The mean RTP time was 26 days (95% CI, 20-32 days) for athletes with concussion and 8 days (95% CI, 6-10 days) for those who took nonmedical leave. Athletes with concussion had a mean of 2.8 full seasons remaining, whereas athletes who took nonmedical leave had 3.1 seasons remaining (P = .493). The probability of playing in the MLB after concussion compared with the nonmedical leave pool was not significantly lower (P = .534, log-rank test; hazard ratio, 1.108). Postconcussion performance decreased significantly in position players, including a lower batting average and decreased on-base percentage in the players with concussion compared with those returning from nonmedical leave. Players who sustained a concussion lost a mean of US$654,990 annually compared with players who took nonmedical leave. Conclusion: This study of the short-term outcomes after concussion in limited-contact MLB athletes demonstrates that concussions may not decrease career spans but may result in decreased performance in addition to financial loss when compared with matched controls who took nonmedical leave. In sports such as baseball that are not subject to repetitive head trauma, career spans may not decrease after a single concussive event. However, sentinel concussions have deleterious short-term effects on performance and compensation among MLB players.