Millions of athletes compete in baseball and softball on an annual basis, and, as with all sports, injury risk and prevention are important concerns. One type of injury particular to these sports are injuries that occur during a slide to a base.
Athletes utilize both head-first and feet-first techniques when sliding. This activity is an important part of the game, and occurs, on average, eight times per game in collegiate and high school baseball, and five times per game in softball. The Centers for Disease Control Estimated that $24 million could be saved annually from sliding injury prevention, underscoring the importance of understanding the risks involved.
There are several aspects to sliding injury prevention that can be implemented. As with many sporting activities, proper technique is important. One potential explanation for the increased rate of injury in softball players is a higher incidence of last second sliding decisions. Shorter base paths and smaller fields may also lead to more last second decisions. Players should be coached to consider sliding at all times, to minimize the last second slide. In addition, sliding compression shorts and appropriate baseball pants are important in reducing injury. Some players hold their batting gloves to minimize the risk of jamming their fingers during headfirst slides.
Breakaway bases have also been shown to decrease injury rates during sliding. A 1993 study demonstrated a decrease in injury rates from two injuries per 100 baseball games with standard bases, to 0.4 injuries per 100 games with break-away bases. Biomechanical studies have also confirmed the benefit of break-away bases. However, the widespread use of break-away bases has not caught on, with increased costs likely a large reason.
Sliding injuries are a common cause of injuries during baseball and softball games. Fortunately, most injuries are minor. Improvement in technique and the use of break-away bases could help decrease the incidence of these injuries..