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Position Statement

Use of Breakaway Bases in Preventing Recreational Baseball and Softball Injuries

This Position Statement was developed as an educational tool based on the opinion of the authors. It is not a product of a systematic review. Readers are encouraged to consider the information presented and reach their own conclusions.

Softball and baseball are our nation's leading recreational sports. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 6 million children play in organized baseball leagues and up to 13 million more play non-organized baseball each year. With that said, it is not surprising that softball and baseball account for a large number of sports injuries. Injuries can occur while sliding into bases and range from sprains to fractures and dislocations. Although lower extremity injuries are the most common, upper extremity injuries also occur. Softball players are the most frequently hurt, with nearly 340,000 softball-related injuries. Many of these injuries are serious enough to require emergency room treatment. The cost for medical care for baseball and softball injuries combined is estimated at more than $1 billion in 2009. This estimate does not include the hidden costs of lost work time, lower work productivity, restriction of future athletic activity, medical-legal services, permanent impairment and escalating insurance premiums for the injured player, his or her employer, the field owner and the softball or baseball league.

Better injury prevention strategies are essential if the goal is to increase the safety of these sports. A study conducted at the University of Michigan found that using breakaway bases in recreational softball games reduced sliding injuries by 98 percent and associated medical care costs by 99 percent. A traditional stationary base is bolted to a metal post and sunk into the ground becomes a rigid obstacle for an athlete to encounter while sliding. In contrast, a breakaway base is snapped onto grommets attached to an anchored rubber mat, which holds it in place during normal play. Although a sliding runner can dislodge it, the breakaway base is stable and will not detach during normal base running.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) believes the deployment of breakaway bases at all levels of baseball and softball could dramatically reduce injuries to athletes improving the safety of both sports as well as reducing healthcare costs due to medical injuries. The AAOS recommends that breakaway bases be installed on all playing fields and further recommends that physicians involved with sports activities around the country actively promote the use of breakaway bases in their local community.

AAOS also recommends the following tips for safe base running and sliding:

  • Players under age 10 should not be taught to slide.
  • Proper instruction in sliding technique must be taught and practiced before using any bag, including the breakaway bases.  Practice should first be with a sliding bag.
  • The "obstruction" rule the fielding player cannot obstruct the path of the runner) must be taught and observed.  Getting in the way of the runner or blocking the base without possession of the ball is dangerous to both the runner and fielder.
  • When coming into home plate, it is important that the runner attempt to slide to avoid a collision. 
  • To prevent ankle and foot injuries between the runner and fielder at first base, a "double bag" – a separate bag for both the runner and first baseman – should be used.

References:

1. American Academy of Pediatrics, PEDIATRICS Vol. 123 No. 6 June 2009, pp. e1028-e1034

2. U.S. Product Safety Commission, NEISS 2009 data

3. Your Orthopaedic Connection, Baseball Injury Prevention. http://orthoinfo.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00185

May 1997 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Revised June 2005 and September 2010.

This material may not be modified without the express written permission of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Position Statement 1140

For additional information, contact the Public Relations Department at 847-384-4036.

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