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My Left Knee: A Homeland Security Issue

Hang with me, because this story really will relate to the A's. Eventually. So I go to an orthopaedic specialist this week for an ordinary-but-painful knee problem. The problem being that it hurts, especially when I am careless enough to walk or get up. At the doctor's office, of course, I have to fill out the requisite 18 forms, mostly asking me repeatedly for my name and address, and checking to see whether I might, by any chance, be allergic to emu or might be currently suffering from any recent bouts of scurvy or hemophilia.

I am also required to sign that I have read and understood the "privacy notice," upon which I approach the receptionist to inform her that I most certainly have not understood the privacy notice because I haven't read it, and I haven't read it primarily because no one has told me where to find it. How private is that? So the receptionist shows me its hiding place, and not being one to sign off on something I haven't read, I actually read the document, which explains that my privacy is so important to them that they will pretty much share it with anyone who asks. "No ma'am, we don't have the latest issue of Newsweek, but if you're bored, here's the latest MRI results on some guy's knee!" Ok, it's not that bad, but in signing off on the "privacy notice," I am acknowledging that information on my left knee may be shared with my primary care physician, my health care company, anyone who may subpoena the records...and, as necessary, with the Department of Justice or Homeland Security to ensure national safety. I kid you not. Hypotheses as to why my knee hurts when I push off it or turn to my left may need to be secretly inspected in the name of protecting our country. God help us all.

But here's the relevant part, to baseball and the A's anyway. The doctor looks at the MRI results and determines that I have no actual damage to the cartilage or ligaments, no excessive fluid, just inflammation that needs a strong anti-inflammatory, rest, ice, and most of all, time. "The good news," he reports, "is that about 100% of my patients with this problem recover fully with this treatment. You should be fine." Of course, I ask the question anyone would ask. "So...about how long would you expect before I'm back to 100%?" He says to figure on about 8-12 weeks. Not a problem. As a teacher and counselor, I can limp a bit and refrain from running around for 2-3 months. I point out to the doctor that an athlete, in contrast, wouldn't have that kind of time to wait for a minor-but-crippling injury to heal. "That's why athletes are so quick to have things like cortisone shots," I point out. One cortisone shot and I'd be good to pitch, or roam the outfield, in 2-3 days.

However, I want to walk like a normal person when I'm in my 40s, and cortisone shots are not good for you, and so I'll accept 2-3 months to heal from a minor injury. But in baseball-season time, the difference between 2-3 days and 2-3 months is huge, especially for an injury so minor that the MRI comes back negative. I got to thinking, "What would it look like if an athlete was like every other athlete, except that they refused to compromise their long-term, post-baseball health when they got injured--even if they had an ordinary problem that could be cured in a couple of days instead of a week or a couple of months?" What would it look like? Interestingly--and I'm not suggesting anything, just musing--it would look a lot like Joe Kennedy and Mark Kotsay.