Ryan Freel Had CTE and Other Bullets

mlb logoA buddy of mine is interviewing at a residency program in Chicago tomorrow, and since I’m Mr. Chicago among my Ohio-based friends, we decided to turn it into a road trip. I’ll be driving for a good chunk of today, which means you won’t see me as much in the comments/Twitter/Facebook/etc. You shouldn’t notice a difference in posting, however, because there’s plenty to discuss, and I’ll make sure it’s covered. If anything breaks mid-day, please forgive a delay in posting.

  • You may remember Ryan Freel as the kind of gritty, all-out, run-into-the-wall type of player that fans naturally gravitate to. You might remember him as a pretty darn valuable utility player for the Cincinnati Reds for a number of years. You might even remember that he played in 14 games as a Cub in 2009. But you probably remember that Freel committed suicide last year, and there were fears and suspicions that a number of concussions throughout his career could have played a role. His family has revealed that, after Freel’s brain was studied posthumously, doctors concluded that Freel did, in fact, suffer from CTE – the degenerative brain diseased associated with repeated trauma to the head, and characterized by memory loss, mood disorders, and sometimes linked to suicide. MLB has already taken steps to improve its treatment of players suffering from concussions, including the creation of a seven-day disabled list for concussions. While baseball is unlikely to face the same kind of public health battle currently plaguing football, it’s still something worth discussing. In light of the Freel revelation, it probably will be discussed.
  • The kiddos had me up early this morning, so I started writing at 5 am. That means you may have missed the late-night/over-night Indians move to sign John Axford.
  • Looks like Anthony Rizzo’s second annual Walk Off for Cancer was a success.
  • Of potential interest to Cubs fans, given the Yankees’ interest in Jeff Samardzija and reported interest in Darwin Barney, it’s the Baseball Prospectus top ten prospect list for the Yankees. It’s pretty much catching prospect Gary Sanchez, and then a whole bunch of high risk/meh types. I’m not sure anyone on the Yankees’ top ten outside of Sanchez would make the Cubs’ top 10.
  • The Bears won an exciting (and frequently frustrating) one over the Browns yesterday, which keeps them firmly in the playoff hunt. Tonight’s Lions game is all the more important – if the Lions lose, the Bears will control their own playoff destiny over the final two weeks of the season. I think. I’m working on my Bears fandom. To assist me, I make sure to read Jay’s recap/thoughts/bits from yesterday’s win, as well as his morning Bullets and upcoming (I assume) preview for tonight’s huge Lions game.
  • If you didn’t check in this weekend, there’s a change coming to the comments here at the site, so you’ll want to drink in the details here before that change comes on January 1 (ultra short version: you’ll be required to register/log-in to comment).

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

35 responses to “Ryan Freel Had CTE and Other Bullets”

  1. Die hard

    Sorry about Freel but before blaming MLB would like to know his history of head injury in and before high school and before playing minors and bigs as this condition is cumulative

    1. ssckelley

      This is actually a very good question, did he play high school football was there other head injuries that contributed to this? Unless you are getting beaned in the head multiple times I cannot imagine CTE being a problem in baseball.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Concussions are a strange thing, some people are really prone to them others can hit a train head on and not have one (yes that’s an exaggeration), some people are more susceptible than others. A player that dives for catches, slides head first, and/or runs into outfield walls is enough trama to result in a concussion in some people. It’s not as obvious as in football when two heads slam into each other but it is enough. I can see mandatory helmets at a times becoming part of baseball because of this.

        1. ari gold

          I don’t know about madatory helmets Goat. I think we need to see evidence of a widespread concussion problem in baseball before anything like that would happen. Although I guess I can see baseball doing that to protect themselves from lawsuits.

          1. MichiganGoat

            Yeah its the threat of lawsuits and the positive PR they would get from making a move like that. I’m sure there are helmets they could wear that aren’t bulky like a batting helmet yet still adds protection from collisions. I don’t think it will happen in the next few years but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happens in the next ten years. What we might see first is a player that wears one to protect themselves and then MLB deciding to make it mandatory. Sensors in hats/helmets might come first but things will be changing eventually.

        2. Funn Dave

          Very good points Goat.

      2. Funn Dave

        CTE is a problem in any activity in which you expose your head to trauma, baseball included. I’m not sure how relevant his high school history would be–to me, the point is that playing baseball contributed to his acquiring CTE, not that we should specifically blame MLB for his trauma or anything like that.

  2. Fastball

    I think the FO needs to pull Shark off the market until the trade deadline. The longer a deal for him is passed iver because the asking price is too high the less his value in the market becomes. Cubs dont need to trade him now. the potential trade partners have moved on except the Yankees and they have nothing in their system. Forget about Gardner they are not trading him. Hopefully the market for Shark will improve. He is 29 and he isn’t a top of the rotation pitcher. I hope he can improve his value on the field from April – June. If he doesn’t improve his value/cost drops. Then the FO let him play his hand. They can extend him as a 4 oitcher and save some money.

  3. Cubs Fan

    Does a Samardzija/Barney for Gardner/Sanchez exchange make sense for both teams?

    1. Chad

      NO, NO, NO, not for the cubs. Would be great for the Yanks.

  4. CubsFanSaxMan

    5:00 a.m. I told you that Brett never sleeps!! Keep up the good work kids!

    1. MichiganGoat

      I see 5am as sleeping in which is strange because in my single non-father days 5am was frequently bed time.

      1. hansman

        Sleeping in? What is that?

        1. MichiganGoat

          Its a fantasy idea like rainbow unicorns, I’ve seen pictures but I’ve never seen one.

  5. oswego chris

    Lou Gehrig may have had CTE….concussions and CTE are linked to ALS

  6. chrisfchi

    Safe travels Brett. They say were to expect some decent snow this afternoon/evening.

  7. EQ76

    Didn’t they just say that Tony Dorsett has CTE also?

    1. MichiganGoat


  8. Mike

    RE: Yankees Prospects

    I’ve read elsewhere that Jose Ramirez could be decent, but the Cubs deserve more for Samardzija

  9. auggie55

    I loved Freel when he played for the Reds, but he sucked by the time got to the Cubs. It was a sad story that he found the need to take his life.

  10. Blackhawks1963

    The Ryan Freel story is very sad. I hope that his family and friends can eventually have closure. Horrible story, as are most of the football tragedies around CTE. I watched a documentary on this subject a few months ago. 28 brains of football players who died prematurely were studied by a team of medical researchers at Vanderbilt. 27 of those brains had advanced stages of CTE, to include an 18 year old who took his own life. If I had a son as opposed to a daughter, then my son would never play football. And I say this as someone who played football himself as a high school kid and loved the experience.

    1. MichiganGoat

      Agreed my son will never play football, youth and high school football as they no way to properly evaluate and treat concussion or afford the proper helmets to prevent them.

  11. Blake Z

    Read an interesting comment on the ESPN comment section:

    Would you be surprised if it is reported on day that OJ Simpson suffered from CTE?

  12. Jono

    I would love to see studies of CTE from non-sports injury causes. Are physical injuries the only way this happens, or can things like drug use cause it? What if CTE is much more common than just among athletes?

    1. MichiganGoat

      I believe CTE is the long term result of repeated brain bruising which is what a concussion at its simplest. Drugs cannot cause this directly.

      1. Jono

        what if drug use can have similiar affects/effects on the brain as brain bruising? Like, what specifically does the bruising do to the brain? There has to be another link there. “A” caused “B” which causes “C”. What if “A” isn’t the only thing to cause “B”?

        1. MichiganGoat

          Drugs could make concussions easier to happen, but you still have to have a collusion that results in the brain hitting the skull. No drug is going to cause or mirror what a concussion does, but it might make the brain more susceptible. PED could be linked to having a higher risk.

          1. Jono

            I’d like to know exactly how brain bruising affects the brain and causes CTE. There have to be links. I haven’t had more head trauma than most people, yet I often forget what I’m talking about mid sentence. It’s personal for me. I have no short term memory at all. I’ve been diagnosed with chronic migraines, too. It’s not something I’m going to just disregard because I haven’t have a lot of concussions. I’m not going to just accept that “A” causes “C” without knowing what “B” is. Sure, i probably don’t have CTE. But I want to know. I want to explore all possibilities especially seeing the outcome of many people who have CTE

  13. THEOlogical

    With MLB looking into CTE cases and where concussions possibly can occur on the playing field, does anyone think there’s a possibility of MLB padding the brick wall in the OF at Wrigley?

    1. CubChymyst

      I doubt it, the fact that is is a brick wall probably keeps most players from running into it as hard as the do with the padded walls. If the did though I wonder if that would be the end of the ivy. I don’t know if the IVY can climb up a padded wall.

      1. Funn Dave

        On the other hand, when other teams visit, their OFs sometimes think, “oh ivy, it must be all soft and plushy,” and are very quickly disillusioned.

  14. Aaron

    I know this is always the title of these posts, but perhaps an ill-thought out pairing of phrases?

  15. chrisfchi

    After hearing about Freel, kind of makes me worry about guys like Reed Johnson. As much as we like seeing guys “play hard” for an out is brain damage really worth it? I personally don’t think so.

    1. Funn Dave

      Hell, no. My hope is that with increased awareness of CTE and other brain conditions, players will continue to play hard but will be more conscious of the susceptability of their brains & take efforts to protect their heads when they are being risky.

  16. Funn Dave

    All very very sad. In related news, the body of the Chiefs linebacker who committed the murder suicide is being exhumed to search for signs of CTE. Tough for his family, I’m sure; and the likelihood of finding anything a year removed from his death is not terribly high; but hopefully he can provide some insight into this long-overlooked condition.

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