Lots of opinions on Davis' injury only his counts


May 01, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

The Orioles needed some good news. They got it yesterday, and they ran with it.

The problem is that the news sounds too good to be true, unless you believe in faith healing.

Last week, a prominent doctor was saying that Glenn Davis needed surgery and could be out for the season. He even suggested that the injury could be career-threatening.

Davis prudently sought another opinion. Actually, he got three of them. Funny, but no one ever seems to want second opinions when the news is good.

In any case, three doctors from Cornell University Hospital for Special Surgery in New York examined Davis Monday and pronounced -- through the Orioles -- that with rest and physical therapy, Davis could be back taking batting practice in a matter of only two weeks.

At a news conference called to announce the glad tidings yesterday, Davis looked relieved and uncomfortable at the same time.

Both responses seem appropriate.

He should be relieved that the injury -- damage to a nerve in his neck that has weakened a shoulder muscle -- may not be as serious as feared. On the other hand, he shouldn't be too comfortable.

If I'm Glenn Davis, I'm out there gathering many more opinions before I pick up a bat to swing in anything like anger.

The Orioles are apparently going to send Davis to see other doctors, but the mood suddenly seemed not nearly so urgent. No itinerary was announced by team doctor Charles Silberstein, who is the point man in Davis' continuing diagnosis and treatment. And when asked if he thought Davis would be back this season, Silberstein answered brightly, "Yes."

The thing about good news is that it's so darn seductive you invariably believe it. With bad news, you're fully prepared to shoot the messenger.

But this messenger is not so easy to ignore. His name is Dr. James Campbell, of Johns Hopkins. A specialist in peripheral nerve problems, he is apparently the foremost authority on Davis' kind of injury.

Little is known for sure about the treatment of the injury because it occurs so rarely. Which seems to suggest even more reason to proceed cautiously.

I'm certainly in no position to cast any aspersions on the Cornell doctors, who are probably all wonderfully talented. They examined Davis separately and apparently reached their conclusions without consulting each other. It doesn't mean they are right, however. Nor does it mean that Campbell is right.

What it seems to mean is that the doctors, who were all working with the same information, are split, three to one. But this is not something you put to a vote. You get the best opinions you can find and then make the best decision you can. If you're lucky, the medical opinion will be unanimous, or nearly so. If not, the player can be faced with agonizing choices.

A lot is at stake here. If the Cornell doctors are right, it could mean the Orioles would have Davis back for the one season for which they have him signed. There is no guarantee, or even any strong indication, he'll be back with the club next year.

But the stakes are much larger for Davis, who is 30 years old and, if healthy, will sign a contract after this season that will probably total more than $15 million over fouryears. You have to be pretty certain to risk a future like that.

This is not to suggest the Orioles would encourage him to take any undue risks. They wouldn't. They're not that kind of people. But, just like Davis, they're prepared to listen closely to good news. It is human nature.

Let's look at Bo Jackson's situation. One doctor said that Jackson was out for the year and would probably never be able to play either football or baseball, causing the Kansas City Royals to release him. The Chicago White Sox have doctors examine him, and they tell team officials that the news isn't nearly so bad. Now Jackson is saying that not only isn't he through, but that he'll be back this season. He isn't even prepared to rule out football.

Whom do you believe, and how do you decide?

"From what I've been told, it's not as bad as it seemed to be." Davis said after his trip to New York. "I don't know what's going to happen. We'll know that when everybody puts their heads together and decides what to do."

That's the proper approach -- more consultation and, when there's optimism, that it should be of the cautious variety.

One more thing: If there's ever a time for a player to be selfish, this is that time. For in the end, when it comes to opinions, no matter how many are offered, Davis must put his first.

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