Monday, May 16, 2011

Awesome night card, pt. 111

To those who view the Dodgers as "one of those other teams," the news that Hong-Chih Kuo was placed on the disabled list because of an anxiety disorder is just another setback for a team suffering from many problems this season.

I find it a bit more interesting than that.

Primarily, I think it's interesting that the Dodgers used the term "anxiety disorder." I have a very close, meaningful, life-altering association with the phrase "anxiety disorder." Although I've never had an anxiety disorder, I have dealt with it in a most intimate, heart-crushing way. "Anxiety disorder" is real, and it is agony. It sends your world spinning off its axis.

I don't associate an anxiety disorder with the inability to throw a baseball. Yet, that is what has been termed as Kuo's problem. He has a case of the "yips," which I've only known as a golf term. He has trouble throwing to bases. He has trouble locating his pitches. It's a problem he's encountered in the past during his career.

When I think "anxiety disorder" and baseball, I think of Zack Greinke and Dontrelle Willis and Khalil Greene. I think of players who were undergoing a life crisis more than not being able to throw a ball.

When I think of players unable to throw a ball, I think of Steve Blass, Steve Sax, Dale Murphy, Mackey Sasser, Chuck Knoblauch and Rick Ankiel. Their problem was embarrassing and sometimes career-altering or career-ending. But it never was considered a "disorder" on a level that they couldn't function in day-to-day life. Maybe it should have. Maybe that has to do with advances in treatment over the years.

So, I wonder if this is the first time that an inability to throw, despite no known physical ailments, has been termed an "anxiety disorder." If so, I'm not sure how I feel about that.

I realize that "anxiety disorder" covers a wide variety of mental ailments, some large, some small. So, I suppose that throwing the ball 3 feet over first base every time could fall under that heading, especially when it's the person's livelihood. But when I've encountered someone with anxiety disorder who could barely get through the day, who endured sleepless night after sleepless night, who couldn't figure out a way to function or even LIVE, then I wonder if the term is too cavalier when attached to Kuo.

I don't know the whole story. Maybe Kuo is in that dire of a state. If so, then I really feel for him even more than I do now. Something like that takes a long time to shake off. Months and months and months. It's related to childhood and/or adolescence, family issues, personality and many intertwined elements.

And if this is the case, then fans' comments of "just another head case" and "release him," are positively ignorant and insensitive. I hope anxiety or depression never visits these people and they come looking for sympathy. They won't get it from me.

So beyond wondering whether this is a watershed case in the treatment of a player with the sudden inability to throw, I merely hope that Kuo figures out how to change his outlook on life. If he is suffering from anxiety disorder the way that I know it, then he cannot see a way out now. But it's there. It's all about changing your outlook, thinking differently, and having understanding, patient people around you.

I know.


  1. thanks for sharing.

    and you're right. No one knows exactly what the injury is on an athlete, so who's to say what he is going through.

    It's so bad in hockey, there are only two injuries reported. You can have an upper body injury, or a lower body injury.

    Let's hope Kuo gets through his upper body injury okay.

  2. Well said, though I would disagree somewhat with the idea that anxiety disorders are a different thing altogether than a physical ailment. Perhaps I am being pedantic, but there is a strong biochemical component to depression and related disorders.

    Having also seen someone close to me go through the depths of an anxiety disorder, I always try to take the time to destigmatize it.

    That said, I saw an interesting article a few months back about the change in perception within baseball about depression. I'll try and dig it up later tonight.