OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy was alert after undergoing surgery for a skull fracture and brain contusion caused by a line drive, team officials said Friday.

The Oakland right-hander was hit in the head during the fourth inning Wednesday by a liner off the bat of Erick Aybar of the Los Angeles Angels. McCarthy suffered an epidural hematoma—essentially, pieces of his broken skull caused bleeding between the skull and the brain.

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Many breathed a sigh of relief as McCarthy remained conscious and then walked off the field under his own power.

KCBS’ Stan Bunger Reports:

But such head injuries can be deceptive, said Dr. Geoffrey Manley, a neurologist at University of California San Francisco who was not involved in McCarthy’s treatment or care.

“Often with an epidural hematoma, but the time that you are fully symptomatic, you can be very close to death,” Manley said, adding that traumatic brain injuries should be treated just as seriously as chest pain.

There is no timetable for McCarthy’s return, despite the encouraging prognosis after surgery.

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Manley said getting checked out quickly after being hit that hard is the only way to prevent what’s been called “walk and die” syndrome. Helmets designed for pitchers do exist, but have not been widely adopted.

Some at amateur baseball’s governing body, USA Baseball, have been lobbying for pitchers to wear protective headgear.

University of North Carolina professor Fred Mueller has also used his position as director of the organization’s Medical Safety Committee to encourage youth coaches to teach pitchers how to field a position without exposing the sides of their skulls to batted balls.

“Some of these coaches, especially in youth and high school, have to teach these kids when they come off the mound to be ready for a ball to come back at them. And in most cases, they’re not ready,” he said.

Mueller also suggested infield players should be wearing some kind of helmet.

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