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The year 2013 brought many advancements for the Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association (MLBTPA) due to the focused efforts of our membership. Areas of progress include player safety, research, and physician relations, communication and education.

Player Safety

In 2013, The MLBTPA continued the pursuit of heightened player safety. Efforts have been directed towards equipment enhancements, rules of the game, and medical management. The primary equipment enhancement has been the initiation of protective caps, especially for high risk positions such as pitchers. A variety of caps are being evaluated to maximize safety while maintaining comfort. Efforts with respect to rules of the game have focused on minimizing collisions at home plate by establishing acceptable catcher positioning over the plate and limiting area of contact by the base runner… all to protect both players from injury. The specifics of this rule are still being determined. Furthermore, protocol for umpire management of catastrophic injury is being codified to maximize the medical care provided during such an event. Optimizing medical management continues in all areas of player care, but one focused area is concussion management. The MLBTPA and the Commissioner’s Office have taken numerous measures to investigate, diagnose, treat, and hopefully prevent traumatic brain injury/concussion. Some of these efforts include: 1) a continued, focused MLB Concussion Study Group including MLBTPA physicians, the MLB Medical Director, Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) trainers, epidemiologists and researchers; 2) an epidemiological study on concussions in MLB identifying high risk player positions and plays; 3) equipment advancements as previously noted; 4) proposed rule modifications for catchers and base runners as previously noted; 5) continuation of the 7 Day Disabled List for concussions in order to protect any player that may have incurred any such injury; 6) implementation of baseline neurocognitive testing on all players at Spring Training; 7) standardization of neurocognitive tests (IMPACT & SCAT3) to be used by all MLB Clubs. All of these efforts are directed towards maximizing player safety.

Research

In 2013 the MLBTPA continued it tireless pursuit of improved diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of injuries in baseball. The MLBTPA Research Program (BMARC) has developed into a benchmark for elite sports research efforts. Our research group has continued its scientific pursuits directed at determining the high risk types of injuries, player positions, and game situations, all in order to decrease and ultimately prevent these injuries. Focused study groups on Concussion, Shoulder, Hamstring, Elbow, Knee, and Hip have made major strides towards precisely defining these injuries in professional baseball players. Landmark epidemiological reviews in each of these areas are in various stages of completion and publication in order to thoroughly educate the medical caretakers of these players. In addition, 2013 brought the establishment of a Medical Issues Research Study Group to evaluate the equally important, non-orthopaedic issues that our players may confront. These research study groups include dedicated MLBTPA physicians, PBATS trainers, the MLB Medical Director, epidemiologists and researcher coordinators all working to improve the care of these players. These efforts are now carefully coordinated with the Players Association through their medical consultant.

Physician Relations, Communication and Education

In 2013, the MLBTPA continued to enhance its society relations, communication, and education by launching its own website (mlbtpa.org). This website allows a venue for dissemination of important information to the public as well as a forum for communication within the membership. The MLBTPA mission, “to maintain the earned trust of the athletes and teams of Major and Minor League Baseball, as well as the public, by providing the highest quality medical care and services aimed at securing and enhancing their safety, health and wellbeing” (mlbtpa.org), reads proudly. This website now serves as a vital means of communication by relaying information such as current membership, research initiatives, community outreach, and sports medicine educational topics. In 2013, the Association’s educational efforts culminated in the Annual TPA/PBATS Academic Meeting at the MLB Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida. This year an outstanding agenda included the most timely injury topics and research presented by MLBTPA and PBATS members. The highpoint of the meeting was the inaugural Lewis Yocum Memorial Lectureship honoring our recently deceased colleague, mentor and friend.

2013 was certainly another great year for the MLBTPA as it supported its mission “through continuing medical education and research relevant to the sport of baseball, analytical surveillance of injuries, critical review of our shared experience, and development of injury prevention recommendations and policies” (mlbtpa.org). All of this is due to the tireless efforts of the MLBTPA membership. It has been a true honor to serve you this past year as President, and I look so very forward to the continued progress of our Society in the future.

Michael G. Ciccotti, MD
Head Team Physician, Philadelphia Phillies
2013 President, Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association

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