Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: What went wrong: Morneau's concussion

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 16, 2011 - 6:43 AM

Justin Morneau's latest concussion has him rethinking his future as a ballplayer.

No, the 30-year-old isn't contemplating retirement. But as much as he loves playing first base, his main priority is becoming a season-long mainstay in the Twins lineup, even if that means more time at designated hitter.

"If that's something I need to do, and if that means being able to hit fourth and help this team win every day, I'll do it," he said. "The last thing we need is to be out there tentative, and not being able to play the game the way it's supposed to be played."

Morneau's awakening came Aug. 28, when he began feeling concussion symptoms after diving awkwardly for a double down the first-base line by Detroit's Alex Avila.

Morneau's previous two concussions came on blows to the head. On April 6, 2005, he got beaned by Seattle's Ron Villone. On July 7, 2010, Morneau got kneed in the head by Toronto's John McDonald while trying to break up a double play.

"That's kind of what makes this whole thing scary," Morneau said, "It's a simple play, diving for a ball, that brought this stuff back again. So I don't know."

Morneau missed the final 78 games last season and has missed 14 games -- and counting -- since leaving the lineup Aug. 28.

With the symptoms lingering, Morneau has kept in regular contact with Dr. Michael Collins, the Pittsburgh concussion specialist who is treating concussed NHL star Sidney Crosby as well as Twins center fielder Denard Span.

Morneau, who is married with an 11-month-old daughter, said he thinks about the long-term effects these concussions could have on his brain.

"That's one of those concerns for sure," he said, adding that it might be time for another round of extensive tests. "I think that's something we'll revisit this winter, if not the next couple weeks, if this stuff continues. You never know. You put your trust in people who have experience who have studied this stuff their whole life and hope they're right."

Another painful season

This whole season has been a tremendous struggle for Morneau. Recovering from last year's concussion limited his offseason workouts. He missed more than half of spring training and never found his groove.

Even though his concussion issues were seemingly behind him, new problems arose. A pinched nerve in his neck began causing numbness in his left finger and weakness in his left arm. Then he strained his left wrist.

With teammates dropping like flies, Morneau fought to stay off the disabled list, but he had trouble swinging with one good arm. By mid-June, he was back on the DL, right where he had ended the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

His wrist healed in a cast, and he had surgery to relieve the pinched nerve. After missing 55 games, he returned for 14 games in August, showing only flashes of his old brilliance.

Technically, Morneau is not on the DL now, because major league teams can expand their active rosters to 40 players in September. But it's uncertain whether he will play again this season, and if he does, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said it will be as a DH.

Minnesota native Eric Nauman, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue and an expert in the central nervous system and musculoskeletal trauma, has followed Morneau's concussion issues from afar and said he would have concerns moving forward.

"If he was feeling bad after falling down like that, or diving, I would be worried about it, to be perfectly honest,'' said Nauman, part of a Purdue team of researchers that recently completed a two-year study on head injuries. "Speaking as a mechanical engineer who studies a lot of biological structures, I've seen damage in all kinds of forms, and I would definitely be worried about him.''

Morneau is batting .227 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 69 games. With Joe Mauer, 28, struggling through his own injuries -- batting .287 with three homers and 30 RBI in 82 games -- Twins fans can't help but wonder if these former American League MVPs will ever be the same.

"It was only last year that both of us were supposed to be starting in the All-Star Game," Morneau said. "So it's not like it was four or five years ago. There's no reason we can't get back to that point."

Looking forward to 2012

Mauer has played his first 18 career games at first base this season, filling in for Morneau, which gives the Twins more options moving forward.

"Whatever gives us the best chance to win," Morneau said. "If that's me playing first and him catching -- that's kind of why we're both signed here. But we need [Mauer's] bat in the lineup as much as we can. If that means him playing first base once a week, or whatever, let me DH."

After this season, Morneau will have two years left on his six-year, $80 million contract. Mauer is signed through 2018, at $23 million per year. Of all the problems that have been exposed this year, with the Twins at 59-89, their other concerns pale in importance to Mauer and Morneau.

If those two aren't healthy next year, the Twins are in big trouble, no matter what changes are made.

"Our best chance for success is to have a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the middle of the lineup," General Manager Bill Smith said. "We're going to do everything we can to keep them healthy and productive."

Like Mauer, Morneau had been looking forward to a "normal" offseason. Their respective injuries played such a big part in what they did last winter that neither came to spring training at full strength.

Morneau said the first four to six weeks after the season are usually dedicated to rest and recovery. Then it's back to work in the gym, and Morneau plans on returning to Fischer Sports conditioning center in Phoenix. That's where he worked out before his 2006 MVP season, and Morneau is nothing if not superstitious.

There was talk at midseason that Morneau might curtail his workouts this winter, since his body has broken down in recent years. But that's not his plan.

"I did the least amount of work I've done in my career last offseason because I was forced to, and I didn't feel like I was prepared," Morneau said. "I didn't feel as strong as I normally do, I didn't feel ready for the season, and I ended up having neck surgery, which is the last thing I wanted."

As Morneau talked, he was sitting in the dugout, staring at the field.

"The way I look at it now," he said, "I'm going to go down swinging."

  • WHAT WENT WRONG One in an occasional series in September on the Twins' 2011 season. Today: Justin Morneau

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota000000000040
Detroit «00100002X340
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:D.Price(15-12) L:K.Gibson(13-12) S:J.Nathan (35)
HR: MIN- None DET- I.Kinsler (17)

ADVERTISEMENT

New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Memphis 6:00 PM
Indiana
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
Portland 9:00 PM
Sacramento
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Phoenix
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Columbus
Los Angeles 6:30 PM
Detroit
Anaheim 7:30 PM
Dallas
Nashville 8:00 PM
Calgary
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the Twins contact Joe Maddon about their managing job?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close