Headfirst or Feet First? We Know the Smartest Baseball Slide, but Does Mike Trout?

Sliding Headfirst or Feet First in baseball

A study published in May suggested that players who slide headfirst increased their risk of injury as compared with those who lead with their feet.

Baseball player Ty Cobb, a.k.a. the Georgia Peach, is known as the greatest base runner of all time. He had a repertoire of nine different sliding styles, both headfirst and feet first, including one called the “cuttlefish”, because he used his cleats to spray a cloud of dirt like a squid sprays a cloud of ink. Infielders with whom he collided were injured more often than he was, but over the years the many injuries from his reckless base running took their toll. As did his playing style because many historians call him the biggest SOB to ever play the game.

As a general rule, baseball doesn’t present a high risk of injuries caused by collision, but base running slides are an exception to the rule. At UFAI this is the season where we frequently treat patients for foot and ankle baseball injuries incurred by sliding into base.

Major League Baseball releases study on base running slide injuries

Now research, funded by MLB and using its injury database, has compared the consequences of headfirst slides with feet first slides. The study covered the years 2011 to 2015, and examined 236 sliding injuries, in both the major and minor leagues.

During the period covered by the study, frontline players like Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals, the Angels’ Josh Hamilton, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, and Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox all sustained hand injuries from headfirst slides that put them on the disabled list. The average headfirst sliding injury caused about 15 days of missed work with some injuries requiring surgery and months long absences from the game.

The stats on sliding feet first vs. headfirst are in

The researchers estimated that feet first slides cause injury in one out of every 413 slides, while headlong slides caused one injury for each 249 slides. This result isn’t very surprising, given the fact that our ankles and feet are more sturdily constructed than the relatively delicate tendons and fragile bones of our fingers, thumbs, and wrists.

Is a headfirst slide worth the greater risk of injury? Proponents of the headlong plunge believe that it enables them to reach the bag more quickly, and even a few hundredths of a second can make the difference between being called safe or out.

In its conclusions, the study was not ready to prefer one sliding style over the other, but it does recommend that players who like to dive headfirst wear hand guards and taping as a preventative measure.

We at UFAI would like to see more studies to help protect baseball and softball players at all levels, even including Little League!

In closing, most of us at UFAI would like to share a hearty “Go Dodgers” with you all. Though one notable exception would like to remind everyone that “Go Cubs Go” is far more endearing.

Be well all.

Read the full article at: www.nytimes.com

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