When Diving for Home Base, Go Feet First
Hot on the heels of last week's study on the frightening prevalence of traumatic brain injury in football -and similar dangers that may lurk for players on the soccer field -comes new research on another playing field danger: head-first slides in baseball. The danger here isn't for players' brains, however, but mostly for the delicate bones and tendons of their hands, as the New York Times reported this week.
The study, published in May in The American Journal of Sports Medicine (and funded in part by Major League Baseball), catalogued all major and minor league slides from 2011 to 2015, tracking injuries and subsequent days missed, among other factors. The findings are stark: players are roughly twice as likely to get injured sliding head-first rather than leading with their feet.
While the danger isn't as dramatic or life-threatening as head injuries in football, it's still significant. Slide injuries led to 4,263 total missed days per playing season, and eight percent of injuries required surgery.
Once again, science confirms what athletes and coaches have long feared. In this case: while sliding head-first is safer in terms of avoiding a tag, it's more dangerous for players' bodies. But we often need hard data to motivate change, and while the study didn't include college or high-school players, the implications are clear. Players and coaches have to weigh the risks-one out against possible weeks on the DL. When in doubt, lead with your feet.