We hear all the time about head, neck and concussion-type injuries in football, but they are very prevalent in baseball as well, and there's no bigger example than what happened to a Royals player in Monday night's game.
The injury was just about as bad as it looked.
Royals starting second baseman Omar Infante got hit in the face Monday with a 90 mph sinker that got away from Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Heath Bell.
Infante immediately left Monday night's game against the Rays in the seventh inning, walking off under his own power with Royals trainers Nick Kenney and Kyle Turner. Infante, hit in the left cheek, was spitting blood and had blood on his forehead as trainers held a towel to his face.
A direct hit is an injury that every parent worries about when their child plays baseball. Very few batters at any level of the sport wear a face mask, and that's something doctors at The University of Kansas and Royals team physician Vincent Key say is the only way to prevent shots to the face from causing real damage.
"That's about all you can do. I think the thing is that the facial protection helps decrease the risk, but there's going to be a risk any time anyone steps into the batter's box," Key said.
He said protecting the head and face is critical because any kind of head injury can be devastating.
"You have a small ball hitting a large skull, so obviously there's a risk of fracture, there's a risk of concussions with those types of injuries. Risk is damage to the socket, eye loss," Key said.
At Lee's Summit West High School, they stress safety to batters. A lot of practice time is spent learning ways to avoid getting hit in the face.
"Obviously always turn into it, turn away from it. If you're going to get hit, take it in the arm or back," said Jay Meyer, the Titans' head coach.
Girls' softball teams for the most part have convinced a number of their players to wear the face protection, but other than the mandatory hard helmets, there's just not a lot of safety technology out there to protect against a hit to the face.
Doctors say kids who play baseball need to be aware at all times.
"The biggest thing for parents at the very young age is having the child pay attention to what's going on on the field," Key said.
As for the Royals, they said the following day they'll continue to evaluate Infante, but it doesn't appear he'll miss a significant amount of time. They said he suffered a non-concussive head injury. He got six stitches to a cut on the side of his face and sprained his right jaw due to the impact of the pitch.
"The immediate plan is to evaluate him over the next 48 hours, though based on the Kansas City medical team's initial diagnosis, it does not appear he'll miss a significant amount time. There is no determination at this time as to whether this will necessitate a stint on the disabled list," they said in a written news release.
After Monday's hit, Danny Valencia ran for Infante, who signed a $30.25 million, four-year contract with the Royals in December after hitting .318 last season for Detroit.
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