Impaled baseball player out for rest of the season

Chicago Cubs outfielder Tyler Colvin is a lucky man. Yesterday, the 25 year old was heading from third base toward home, when teammate Welington Castillo hit a broken-bat double to left.  The sharp end of the maple bat impaled Colvin, entering his chest just below the collarbone. Although he was able to walk off the field under his own power, he was hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he was diagnosed with a pneumothorax. He is expected to remain at the hospital for observation for a few more days. In a statement released by the Cubs, Colvin said: “I want to thank Cubs fans for their support all season, especially right now, and let everyone know that I’m doing OK.” Despite this, Colvin is expected to be out for the rest of the season.

To see what happened to Colvin, click here.

This injury brings up an issue that MLB needs to investigate more closely- the use of maple vs. ash bats by MLB players. Maple apparently is preferred by some hitters because it has a more solid feel than an ash bat. However, ash bats if broken shatter into smaller pieces than maple bats, which tend to shatter into sharper, more jagged pieces.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com wrote in his blog today  about this issue: ” Will it be enough for another review of the problem of shattering maple bats?… The leaders of the Players Association need to ask themselves the question, what would they do about the maple bats if Colvin had been killed or suffered a career-ending injury?”

A collapsed lung, or pneumothorax, is the collection of air in the space around the lungs. This buildup of air puts pressure on the lung, so it cannot expand as much as it normally does when you take a breath.

Risk factors for a pneumothorax include lung diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), tuberculosis, and cystic fibrosis. Surgery or a chest injury also may cause a pneumothorax. You can also develop a pneumothorax without having a recognized lung disease or chest injury. This is called a spontaneous pneumothorax. Smoking increases your risk of spontaneous pneumothorax. Having a family history of the condition also increases your risk.

What are the Symptoms of a Pneumothorax?

Almost everyone who has a collapsed lung has the following symptoms:

  • Sharp chest pain, made worse by a deep breath or a cough
  • Shortness of breath

A larger pneumothorax will cause more severe symptoms, including:

  • Chest tightness
  • Easy fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Bluish color of the skin caused by lack of oxygen

Other symptoms that can occur with a collapsed lung include:

  • Nasal flaring
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)

Treatment

A small pneumothorax may go away on its own. You may only need oxygen and rest. The health care provider may use a needle to pull the extra air out from around the lung so it can expand more fully. You may be allowed to go home if you live near the hospital.

If you have a large pneumothorax, a chest tube will be placed between the ribs into the space around the lungs to help drain the air and allows the lung to re-expand.

The chest tube can be left in place for several days. You must stay in the hospital while the chest tube is in place.

Some patients with a collapsed lung need extra oxygen, which helps the air around the lung be reabsorbed more quickly.

For more information, check out our our Resounding Health CaseBook™ on the topic.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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