By Jonathan Pitts
6:58 p.m. EDT, October 26, 2011
In a recent interview, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said he was feeling better than he had at any time in the past six months.
The two-time All-Star, in Baltimore for the first time since leaving the team in June after suffering a concussion in a game against Boston on May 16th, said he had just experienced a two-week span free of symptoms for the first time since the incident.
“We have friends who tell me they can’t believe how much better I look than I did even in September,” he said last week. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be feeling normal.”
Roberts suffered the injury when he slid into first base trying to beat the throw on a close play. The force of landing jarred his head hard enough to trigger his second concussion in a span of eight months.
The first came toward the end of the 2010 season, when he hit himself on the helmet with his bat in frustration after striking out in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Roberts struggled with headaches, dizziness and memory loss during that off-season but attempted to play last year. He stayed with the team for two games after the May incident but found that even following the ball with his eyes from the dugout triggered nausea.
Sports concussion specialist Michael Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center told Roberts he had suffered injury to his vestibular system, the part of the brain that controls balance. Collins, who works with other sports figures including Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby and Minnesota Twins slugger Justin Morneau, advised Roberts to leave the ballclub – and eventually Baltimore – to reduce the stress on his system.
“I learned it was best for my recovery to get away,” said Roberts, whose headaches and dizziness continued to be so severe for most of the summer that he asked his wife, Diana, to handle phone calls, including those from his family, and had to cancel his annual fund-raising event, Brian’s Baseball Bash, in August.
Roberts spent his time away from the team at his off-season home in Sarasota, Fla., where he underwent a concussion-specific rehab program and tried gradually to return to baseball activities at the Orioles minor-league complex in Twin Lakes.
Doctors shut down his comeback efforts in mid-September when it became clear he would miss the rest of the 2011 season. The uninterrupted time away from sports activities, he said, has helped him consolidate gains he was gradually making.
For the past two weeks, he has been able to drive, ride an exercise bike and carry out other normal life activities without triggering any symptoms for the first time since May.
The Oriole veteran, who turned 34 in October, has been cleared to begin his customary off-season workout regimen, and Collins said he expects Roberts’ health and conditioning to be normal by the start of spring training.