LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As Tommy Hanson’s car careened down an embankment and across a field Monday morning, the Braves pitcher wasn’t thinking about his career or his life being in danger.
“I was just trying to get the car to stop,” said Hanson, who wasn’t sure what caused the blowout of his right-front tire that he said sent him barreling off a curve on a road near the Braves’ spring-training site.
“I couldn’t get it to stop. I don’t know if it was because the tires were flat, or just that I was in a car in a bunch of soft sand and dirt. But I went for a while, probably 90 feet.”
Hanson, who was driving to training camp for the Braves’ opening workout when the one-car accident happened, felt fortunate to escape with only a Grade 1 concussion and no broken bones, cuts or serious contusions.
He’s missed the first four days of pitchers-and-catchers workouts and probably won’t suit up until Monday, as the Braves follow post-concussion protocols and ease him back into action slowly after all symptoms subside.
“I feel all right now,” said the 6-foot-6 right-hander, who wasn’t sure if he’d bumped his head, perhaps on the car’s roof or headrest. “I’ve had headaches the last couple of days, but I’m feeling a lot better now and don’t have the headaches anymore.
“Hopefully this gets behind me as soon as possible. It’s definitely frustrating but it could have been a lot worse. Thank God it wasn’t, and hopefully I’ll just miss a couple more days and I can be out with the guys.”
He had bruises on his left (non-throwing) shoulder from the seatbelt he was wearing, and also on his forearms and left ribcage. But none of those were serious and only the concussion has prevented him from returning to workouts.
After feeling nauseous Monday and having headaches two more days, Hanson said he was headache-free Thursday. He took the ImPACT concussion test Thursday and results were compared to the “baseline” test he took three years ago.
He’ll probably take the test again within the next few days and could be cleared to begin workouts if the results match up with his with baseline test.
“That’s why we use baseline so when these type things happen, you put them back on the impact test and you can see right away where they are,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “Almost all sports are using the baseline testing now.
“He will continue to do the testing as symptoms subside. That’s one of tools we’ll use to see where he is.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez indicated it would probably be Monday before Hanson suits up, in which case he would miss a week of workouts, including the first two full-squad workouts Saturday and Sunday.
Gonzalez reiterated that missing a week this early shouldn’t set Hanson back significantly. He did a lot of throwing in January while working to smooth out his pitching delivery, so Hanson was ahead of where he would normally be this early.
“I don’t know what they have planned for me, but hopefully I’d like to get back [working out some] this weekend,” Hanson said. “I feel a lot better now, I feel a lot clearer. At first kind of even just walking was messed up. I feel fine now. My headaches are gone, so hopefully obviously the sooner the better. But it’s kind of up to them…
“I feel like I came into spring ready. This is kind of unfortunate, but if I do have to take a whole week off I don’t feel like I’m that far behind.”
Hanson said he was driving at about 7 a.m. Monday when a tire blew out as he took a left turn on a ramp connecting one road to another not far from the Braves’ training camp at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. By the time he stopped the car both right tires were flat, he said, but he was able to drive it slowly to the road for the tow truck.
Hanson said there was other damage to the car, which will be in the repair shop for some time. It was his own car, not a rental.
“I really didn’t remember what happened [soon after the accident],” he said. “Now I kind of remember what happened. It kind of just threw me off the road. I don’t remember how I hit my head or what I did.
“I went down probably like a 5-foot drop and then went through a field, kind of hit, like, an embankment. And then I got my car out of there and had the tow-truck driver drive me over here with my car in the back.”
“Then I got here and told [Braves officials] what happened. They checked me out and I went and saw the doctor and found out I had a concussion.”
There were no eyewitnesses and no police involvement in the matter. Hanson was asked if he hit a curb that blew out the tire.
“No, I didn’t hit a curb. There was no curb there, it was just a ramp,” he said. “All I know is I was driving and it threw me off the road. And I wasn’t speeding or going too fast. It’s weird. Weird situation.”