Lucroy seeks out Matheny about concussions

Lucroy seeks out Matheny about concussions

MILWAUKEE -- Enduring a slow recovery from a concussion, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy connected last week via telephone with Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose own playing career essentially ended after a series of head injuries. The crux of Matheny's message: Don't rush it.

"He told me I have to take my time," Lucroy said. "I knew he had gone through it, [but] his was a lot more severe. He took multiple hits, back-to-back days. Mine was a one-shot thing. He just stressed to not get back in there until I feel right and the doctors clear me.

"He said it was not worth a repeat hit when you're not healed up, because that's when things get really, really bad, in terms of not being able to drive, not being able to look at lights, throwing up and nausea and stuff like that. He really stressed, 'Take your time.'"

That's precisely what Lucroy is doing. As of Tuesday, when Matheny and the Cardinals began a three-game series against the Brewers at Miller Park, it had been one week since Lucroy was struck on the mask by a foul tip during a game in Miami. He finished that game but has not played since.

It was Matheny who suggested Lucroy visit with Dr. Micky Collins, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center concussion specialist. The Brewers happened to be playing a four-game series in Pittsburgh, so Lucroy, in concert with the Brewers' medical staff, took an appointment Saturday.

"Mostly just pointing him in some of the directions," Matheny said of his chat with Lucroy. "My suggestion was to try to get in front of somebody that knows this particular injury, because there just aren't that many people who are specialized in it.

"I never had any issues with it before. Even though I had multiple concussions, they never stuck around. I was encouraged to go find a couple of guys in the NHL and talk to them about what they were experiencing. It was reassuring, because I thought I was out of my mind. I thought it just wasn't that big of a deal. I ended up realizing it was a precursor to a lot of worse things that could happen. Then I talked with them through the healing process, as far as what worked for them to get them to the point to where they could get back and do what they needed to do. It was helpful."

Lucroy was reassured when Collins stressed that he will recover in time. Part of the treatment regimen, Lucroy said, is to "challenge" the symptoms.

"It's just like working out," Lucroy said. "A lot of people think if you go hide in a dark room and wait for the symptoms to go away, you're good. He said, 'No, in order for you to really heal up the way you need to, to be protected if you get hit again, you have to challenge yourself with the stimuli that bothers you.'

"We're staying on it. I'm going to go out today, stretch with the team and throw. I haven't hit on the field yet; I just hit off the tee in the cage. I'm trying to challenge myself to try to get through the fogginess."

Considering the risk involved with repeat concussions, and the fact the Brewers are not contending for a postseason position, has Lucroy considered simply shutting down for the rest of the season?

"You know, I don't know yet," he said. "If I can come back and play, I'm going to play."

But, he added, "I wouldn't be able to [play] unless they let me. The doctors have to approve it, and there's a lot that goes into it, because concussions are a serious thing. Concussions are a big deal, but they go away if you just have one. If you have multiple, back-to-back, without being healed up, then you're talking about a problem."

Said manager Craig Counsell of the potential of a shutdown: "I don't think we're there yet. We still have three weeks to go."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.