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Summer Safety: ‘Foul Ball!’ Learn Risks of Head Injuries in Baseball

a line of batting helmets in a field
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antwaun L. Jefferson

Baseball and softball are practically synonymous with summer in America. Military families enjoy days at the stadium together, service members join recreational leagues, and kids learn the ropes at Little League games. When watching a Major League Baseball (MLB) game, who doesn’t love it when one of our service members throws out the first pitch?

Baseball and softball are popular summer pastimes, but most people don’t connect these two sports with head injuries. Players and fans need to be aware of the possible danger of being beaned by a ball. Head injuries are a problem not just for amateur athletes, but also the pros. An MLB official says that a dozen pitchers have been hit in the head by line drives since 2012.

Professional and recreational pitchers have experimented with protective headwear over the past couple of years, but such gear is still optional. Unlike batting helmets, which have been required since 1956, no regulations are in place to protect pitchers from a line drive hit back to them at speeds that can exceed 100 miles per hour.

Steve Atkinson, a technology specialist with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, said both the league and the players association need to buy into the idea that pitchers need the headgear before a rule can be implemented. Until then, some pitchers will opt out.

“It’s like batting helmets,” Atkinson said. “Until they made them mandatory they didn’t get 100 percent participation.”

Fans are at risk as well, he added. When watching a game, fans must pay attention to where they are in relation to the field and what’s going on in the game. Atkinson said even the extended netting MLB implemented for the 2016 season will not eliminate all accidents.

“You have to be as cognizant of a foul ball as a player is,” Atkinson said.

Ways to Protect Your Head

To prevent injury, here are some steps you can take:

  • Visit A Head for the Future to learn ways to prevent head injuries, the symptoms of a concussion and about the importance of getting help.
  • Wear a helmet when engaging in risky sports. For baseball or softball, wear a helmet every time you bat or pitch.
  • Be aware of where you sit at a game and be alert when the ball is batted, so you can duck a foul ball.
  • Share this downloadable PDF: PDF on four tips to help prevent a sports-related brain injury.

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This page was last updated on: September 14, 2017.