Despite new MLB rules, catching is still hazardous

The concept of a team is to bring individuals with specific skills together to perform as a successful unit. In baseball, the skills of a catcher are among the most varied and demanding.

Catchers also face significant injuries as a result of constant throwing, maintaining a crouched position behind home plate and physical contact with the baseball moving at high velocity, the bat being swung overhead and collisions with other players.

In addition to these injuries, the catcher is often seen as the person responsible for coordinating the activity of other players on the field.

In 2014, Major League Baseball passed a new rule requiring catchers to give runners a clear path to home plate and prohibit runners from veering from that path to collide with catchers.

This has resulted in a reduction of the number of collision injuries and specifically concussions that result from these collisions.

Interestingly, the greatest number of concussions continues to be contact between the catcher and foul-tipped baseballs and contact with the bat.

Those concussions also have required longer recovery time than collision-related concussions, according to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

That study also found that the greatest number of days spent on the disabled list by catchers was related to injuries to the lower extremities and arms.

Arm injuries are the result of throwing hundreds of sub-maximal effort throws to the pitcher on a daily basis and maximum-effort throws to second base.

“Catchers can be susceptible to knee injuries, specifically patellofemoral pain due to their constant squatting position with their knees flexed,” reports Dr. Katherine Coyner, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut.

“This can cause softening of the cartilage. It is important to stretch and work on flexibility and strength specifically of the quadriceps and hips to avoid patellofemoral pain.“ Better protective equipment and training techniques for catchers will hopefully reduce injuries.

Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at

Regular exercise can extend cognitive life expectancy

The life expectancy of Americans has grown dramatically over the past 50 years thanks to major advances in medical science. Unfortunately, advancing age has brought with it an increase in age-related conditions including visual loss, arthritis, vascular disease and kidney disease.

Neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias have presented some of the greatest challenges to enjoying these advancing years.

Approximately 5.7 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. It is a disease that robs its victims of their most intimate memories and the ability to learn new information. These numbers will grow as the population ages and this has lead to the application of a new measure termed “cognitive life expectancy.“

Cognitive life expectancy is best defined as the length of time adults can live with good versus declining brain health. A recent study presented at a national meeting estimates that Americans have an average of 12 years of good cognitive health beyond age 65.

A series of recent articles published in the journal Neurology and its related publications have looked at proven ways to increase cognitive life expectancy through exercise.

In general, fitness activities were considered to be aerobic, resistance and a combination of aerobic and resistance. Mind-body exercises including yoga and tai chi were considered as a separate mode.

In one comprehensive review of the literature on this topic, a combination of one hour per day, three times per week of any of these modalities resulted in improved cognitive testing.

A study of Swedish women over a period of 44 years found that women with a high level of cardiovascular fitness during midlife had an 88 percent decrease in dementia compared to a medium fitness group.

Participation in a regular exercise program can be a big factor in extending the cognitive lifespan. Although this can be helpful at any age, following an exercise regimen beginning in early life has the most benefit.

Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at