The one piece of baseball safety gear you shouldn’t play without.
When you think of dangerous sports, baseball isn’t likely to come to mind. With limited contact and a slower pace of play than many team sports, baseball is relatively safe. But injuries do occur. The most dangerous of which involve player collisions, batted balls and wild pitches.
And we’re not just talking pros. At the high-school level, fastballs can reach more than 80 miles per hour – enough to break bones or cause a concussion, not to mention some painful bruises.
Safety gear has made the game much more safe, from helmets that protect players in the direct path of a fast pitch to the head to toe protection worn by catchers. But there is one, sometimes overlooked, piece of gear that leagues should use – breakaway bases.
The Most Effective Baseball Safety Gear
Traditional bases are rigid, so sliding into them can cause an array of hand, arm, foot, ankle, lower-leg or even head injuries. Breakaway bases are stable during normal base running but are dislodged when a player slides into one, lessening the impact and therefore the chance of injury.
A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that the use of breakaway bases in recreational softball games reduced sliding injuries by 98 percent. This led the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) to recommend that breakaway bases be installed on all baseball and softball fields.
Other baseball safety measures that are proven to work or show promise include:
- Playing with reduced impact balls
- Using faceguards or protective glasses
- Wearing batting helmets
- Following pitch limits and required rest periods to prevent repetitive stress injuries
Choosing The Right Baseball Shoe
The AAOS advises players to choose shoes with:
- A snug heel
- Roomy toe box
- Good traction
- Plenty of ankle support and coverage
Metal cleats tend to cause more injuries then molded plastic, making them the preference for most teams. But the most important thing for injury prevention is to only play in shoes that fit well and are in good condition. Fit is especially important for children, who tend to outgrow their shoes before they wear out.
Baseball Safety Gear Trends
The latest trend in baseball safety is protective caps and helmets for pitchers. But there are a number of gear advancements designed to improve safety across all areas of play. Here are a few new trends, plus other tried and true protectors:
- Chest protectors – While these guards have not yet been proven to prevent sudden cardiac arrest after a chest hit, they do lessen the damage an impact can do to bones and body tissue.
- Face guards or shields – These can lessen damage to teeth, facial bones and eyes from the impact of a batted or thrown ball.
- Protective eyewear – These range from shatter-resistant safety glasses/sunglasses to sport goggles.
- Sliding pants – Padded to protect against cuts and bruises during feet-first sliding, these pants are worn under uniforms.
- Elbow pads and/or shin guards – These are worn when batting to protect the elbow and shin closest to the pitcher (and therefore in line to absorb impact from a batted or thrown ball).
- Batting gloves – These obvious blister-preventers also lower the risk of losing grip on the bat, which can result in injury to anyone nearby.
Catchers are well-known for wearing a significant amount of protective gear, but even that is growing. Knee-savers are foam wedges that sit behind the knees to lower the strain on knee joints when the catcher is crouching.
The right gear can help prevent the most common baseball-related injuries: sprains and superficial injuries (cuts and scrapes). So, play it safe with the right gear – and play away.