Massachusetts Baseball Safety

Massachusetts Baseball Safety

Now that the snow has melted, and we can finally see the grass, Americans have once again turned to their favorite national pastime, baseball.  Baseball is as American as hot dogs and apple pie.  For adults, it is a game that brings us back to our childhood.  For children and teenagers, it is a sport filled with fun and excitement.

While baseball does not appear to be as dangerous as contact sports such as football and hockey, it presents the risk of real injuries, which can be avoided when safety precautions are taken. The primary risks of serious injury in baseball relate to being hit by a ball or a bat. Here, the Massachusetts injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck offer safety tips for Massachusetts baseball players:

Equipment and Field Safety

  • Batting helmets must be worn whenever a player is waiting to bat, is at bat or is running the bases.
  • Players should be instructed to have their attention focused on the batter, even when they are not playing in the game, to avoid being hit by a batted ball.
  • In leagues for players below the age of 10, the game should be played with balls that are partly rubberized so that the risk of injury is minimized.  These balls are sold in most sporting goods stores.
  • A catcher should always wear a full-length chest protector, athletic support with a cup, shin guards, a helmet and a face mask, along with a catcher’s mitt whenever they are catching pitches.
  • Baseball bats made out of aluminum or composite materials propel the balls faster and harder than wooden bats.  For this reason, some leagues have restricted the use of certain composite bats.  Parents should make sure that the bats they are buying for their children are permitted by their leagues.
  • While hitting the ball with greater power can be good for the batter, it also means greater risk for players in the field.  Pitchers who are the fielders closest to the batter are at the greatest risk of being struck by the ball because of the reduced reaction time.  Players must be instructed to be focused and ready to react as quickly as possible when batted balls are hit to them.
  • Most fields are equipped with fencing in front of the players’ benches or dugouts.  This fencing is designed to protect players on the bench from being hit by batted balls.  Many children wander beyond the fenced-in areas and run the risk of being struck by a batted ball.  It is important for all parents and coaches to make sure that the players understand that they must stay behind the fenced-in areas to avoid being hit by batted balls.
  • Batters should only swing bats in designated areas.  Many leagues prohibit batters who are not actually at bat from even touching a bat to avoid the risk of another player being hit by a swung bat.

Excessive Pitching
Pitching puts stress on young arms that are still growing. Injuries to ligaments, tendons, wrists, elbows and rotator cuffs often result from excessive pitching.  Fortunately, these injuries can be minimized if players, parents and coaches follow these guidelines:

  • Be certain that pitchers adhere to league rules regarding the maximum number of innings that they are allowed to throw.  If your child plays on more than one team, include all innings pitched each week.
  • Even major league pitchers have strict pitch counts to keep their arms healthy.  The following are the pitch count limits recommended by Youth USA Little League and American Sports Medicine Institute:
    • 7-8 years old:  50 pitches a day or 75 pitches a week
    • 9-10 years old:  75 pitches a day or 100 pitches a week
    • 11-12 years old:  85 pitches a day or 115 pitches a week
    • 13-16 years old:  95 pitches a day
    • 17-18 years old:  105 pitches a day

If an athlete has a concussion, the brain needs time to heal.  The player should be kept out of play until an appropriate health care professional says they are symptom-free and it is okay to return.  A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain mends from the first injury can be very dangerous and may slow the recovery or increase the chances for long term problems.

Major League Baseball has instituted a new policy for the 2011 season which states that if a player appears to have suffered a concussion, the player automatically goes on a seven-day disabled list.  This is designed to prevent a situation where the player is rushed back to the field after suffering a concussion.

Massachusetts is similarly moving to protect student athletes. In July 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law comprehensive sports safety legislation which will apply to all schools which belong to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. In part, the law will require students who incur head injuries on the field or suspected concussions to be removed from play and all extracurricular activities until they have been cleared by a medical professional. Another part of the law requires parents, coaches and others involved in school sports to attend a sports head injury and concussion awareness program at the beginning of each school year. State officials are still seeking public comment before issuing the final regulations.

How Coaches Can Identify Concussions
The following are guidelines to be used by coaching staffs to help detect when a concussion has occurred following a blow to the head:

  • The player appears dazed or stunned (e.g., glassy eyes)
  • The player is confused about assignment or position
  • The player forgets an instruction or a play
  • The player is unsure of the score or who the opponent is
  • The player moves clumsily or has poor balance
  • The player answers questions slowly
  • The player loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • The player shows mood, behavior or personality changes
  • The player cannot recall events prior to being hit or falling
  • The player cannot recall events after being hit or falling

How Parents Can Identify Possible Concussions
The following symptoms should serve as an alarm to parents that their child may have suffered a concussion:

  • Headache or “pressure” in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish, haze, foggy or groggy
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Feeling more emotional, nervous or anxious
  • Does not “feel right” or is “feeling down”