Be Safe At First, Second, Third & Home: Lowering the Chance of Injury in Baseball

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Richard P. Borkowski, Ed. D., C. M. A. A. :::
Sport and Recreation Safety Consultant

Every baseball coach needs to:

  • Recognize that risks exist in baseball.
  • Identify those risks.
  • Evaluate the risks.
  • Have a plan to lower the risk.
  • Closely supervise the program.
  • Remind participants of their role in controlling risks.
  • Always remain vigilant. Risk management is a continual process.
  • Review and revise your program when necessary.
  • Ask for assistance from superiors.
  • Care about the welfare of his/her athletes.

While this game falls into the general category of non-contact, it is a high-risk activity. Baseballs are projectiles. Bases that do not give when sliding bodies hit them can be dangerous. Consider the use of “breakaway” or “impact” bases that lower the chance of sliding injuries. Swinging and thrown bats can be dangerous implements.

Consider re-positioning the “on-deck circle,” or placing a barrier such as a screen between the batter and circle.

Multiple drills and therefore multiple balls and additional players on the field can also increase the potential for problems. Defensive players are more prone to injuries.

Unprotected spectators are risk management concerns. The lack of some types of screens and fences for players and spectators close to the foul line creates potential injuries.

When baseball practice is moved inside because of bad weather there must be planned, limited and controlled use of space. A ball becomes a more dangerous projectile because of walls, lighting and glass.

Other safety concerns include:

  • Player and barrier collisions. Remember to construct warning tracks around the field. If you have outfield fences, they should be shock absorbing
  • The failure to slide correctly. The overuse of pitchers.
  • The overlapping of drills.
  • Failing to include a conditioning and stretching period.
  • Failing to check player equipment, especially the helmet.
  • Failing to check the field on a regular basis.
  • Practicing in inclement weather that creates an unsafe field or remaining outside during a lightning storm.

Dr. Frederick Mueller, the well-respected collector and analyst of catastrophic athletic injuries suggests that serious injuries happen in one of three ways:

  1. A player being hit with a ball. A properly fitted helmet as well as screens during practice appreciably decreases the chance of this problem.
  2. Players colliding with one another. Clear instruction regarding responsibilities,while in the field, will limit this problem.
  3. Sliding headfirst. Dr. Gil Fried reports that 75% of the 1.7 million base running injuries occur during sliding. The need to teach how to slide and the use of “giving” bases will help lower these statistics.

Coaches must know and appreciate their risk management duties. The implementation of solid safety rules and regulations will not guarantee your athletes freedom from injury, but it will lower the chance of both common and serious catastrophic injuries. Lowering the chance of injury also lowers the chance of expensive time-consuming program shattering lawsuits.

Some additional suggestions:

  1. The best safety tool is a concerned knowledgeable coach.
  2. Offer only approved and well fitting equipment.
  3. Wait for any state of the art equipment to become the established piece of equipment.
  4. Avoid modifying equipment or using equipment for any other than its intended use.
  5. Check the fields, screens, backstops, and bases before play.
  6. Read the rulebook.
  7. Offer instruction. The repetition of fundamentals is one of the major techniques for lowering the chance of injury.
  8. Supervision is another major key to decrease injuries. Attempt to keep all your players in front of you. Attempt to scan the playing field.
  9. Condition the player. Remember that rest, water and nutritional information are part of physical conditioning.
  10. Make your players aware of the risks of the game.
  11. Have an emergency plan. Have some knowledge of first aid and CPR.
  12. Maintain records. Put things in writing. Written rules and regulations prevent misunderstandings.
  13. Never modify any league or association rule that pertains to safety.

The best defense against injuries is to understand, appreciate and meet the legal duties of a coach. If you noticed – they are the same as the basic duties of a good baseball coach.

 

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