Improving Ballfield Safety
According to a study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, youth baseball injuries are declining. Over the course of the study, which covered the years 1994 through 2006, youth baseball injuries dropped by approximately 25 percent. While baseball is a relatively safe sport for children, the AAP said, there are still opportunities to make baseball even safer for children. And what makes it safer for children will also help reduce injuries for adults.
Q: How can I improve safety on our baseball fields?
A: There are several steps you can take to reduce injuries among players on your fields. The authors of the study mentioned above suggest that all leagues, parks and schools install safety bases.
A recent five-year study showed that 55 percent of ballfield injuries to runners occur when they slide into a base, and 47 percent of all runners' injuries result in fractures. With those kinds of statistics, it makes sense that the bases are a good place to start reducing injuries.
Traditional stationary bases include two parts: a metal post sunk into the ground and fixed in concrete and a pillow base bolted to a metal pole that fits into this base. This setup results in rigid, unmoving bases—it takes 3,500 pounds of force to dislodge one of these bases.
Newer releasable bases consist of three major parts. Similar to traditional bases, a metal pole is sunk into the ground and fixed in concrete. From there, a rubber mat is bolted to a pole that's inserted into the ground, and a separate pillow then fits onto the rubber mat. When players just step onto the base, it stays in place, but if a runner slides hard into the base, the pillow releases from the mat.
Q: What else should I know?
A: As of the 2008 season, the Little League began requiring all local leagues to use bases that can disengage from the anchor. So if you have Little League teams playing on your field and you're still using traditional-style bases, now is the time to get up-to-date.
The good news is, you won't have to start from scratch. In most cases, no permanent changes to your existing below-ground infrastructure will be required. Some systems fit onto base anchors that are in cement below the ground, and they're easily removed after the game.