The principal goal of anyone involved in sports medicine is to assure the safety of an athletic event for all the participants. Safety measures in sports like baseball and softball can have dramatic impact.
Recent conversations with Mike Turgeon, who has been teaching baseball skills in Norwich for 20 years, and the athletic training staff of the New York Yankees in Tampa have raised several safety issues worth noting:
• Field conditions. Many baseball injuries are the result of a “bad hop” off a stone in the infield or stepping into an unexpected sink hole in the outfield. Municipalities must maintain athletic fields if they wish to continue youth sports programs.
• Basic skills. Before allowing youngsters to play infield positions coaches must be sure that they possess the skill to handle a hard hit ball.
• Bats. The longstanding controversy over the safety of metal bats continues. The best way to avoid injury from a hard-hit ball coming off a metal bat is by using protective equipment like mouth guards, helmets, masks and devices that protect the genitalia.
• Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs). “Commotio cordis” occurs when the heart begins to beat erratically or ceases to beat entirely after being suddenly struck by an object. An appropriate chest protector such as those worn by hockey players can avoid this injury. When this life-threatening situation presents itself an AED can be used to immediately shock the heart back to normal rhythm. This year the New York Yankees are leaving nothing to chance and have purchased eight AEDs so that when on the road each minor league team has an AED available at all times. This action should serve as an example for communities to make AEDs available at all athletic events not only for athletes but fans as well.
Baseball can only become safer if parents and communities take an active role.
Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital and in private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC, in Norwich. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or listen to his podcasts, comment on his blog or buy his book at backushospital.org.