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Children and teenagers being killed by baseball impact to the thorax or throat

Posted by John Reed on

The Sports Illustrated I got today has on its last page an article about teenage baseball heart injuries from being hit by a ball in the neck or throat.

I think my books on baseball coaching are the only ones that address the danger of boys suddenly dying from cardio commotis. My web article on baseball safety also addresses it. ( Other than my writings, I think you have to go to the medical community to read about this.

Here’s the deal. If a teenager or younger person is hit by a baseball in the thorax or neck, it sometimes causes them to fall over dead. Doctors are not sure of why this happens, but the tentative theory is that if the ball strikes the body at just the right part of the heart beat—a 20-millisecond stretch—it stops the heart.

Why just with boys and not men? Because boys have a more flexible thorax and neck; men have more rigid bodies in that area. A man’s body is sort of like a suit of armor that protects the heart and cardiac system. Also, as far as I know, this does not happen tackle football.

Does the speed of the ball have to be extra fast? Apparently not. I interviewed both parents of Ryan Wojick, a 10-year old who was hit by a pitch that his father told me was only traveling about 40 mile an hour. There was a firehouse within sight of the field and they responded immediately, but it was too late. Upon impact, Ryan slumped to the ground and died. I did the interview in order to impress upon the parents at my team parent meetings that my desire to use the soft baseball was for good reasons

What is the solution? We’re not sure. The SI story is about a 14-year-old boy who was very lucky. They decided to starting a defibrillator at the field for all games. Might help.

My solution, which is also in the might-work category, is to use the soft baseballs that are used in tee ball. I want them used at all levels although the sudden death problem is only with boys. It may be that the soft baseball and defibrillator won’t help.

My bigger point is that baseball is a very dangerous sport with a very safe image—a false image abetted by dishonest statements and non-actions by baseball authorities who would rater hide behind the false image than fix the problems.

Read either my book chapter or the web article to get the details. In my other sport that I write about—football—the authorities are quick to adopt any recommended safety item like mouth guards. But mouth guards were also recommended by the medical authorities for other sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball, and those sports essentially laughed the recommendations off the agenda. The dentists even put out a follow-up news release commending hockey and football for following their recommendations, and thereby almost eliminating dental injuries in those sports, while people go on losing their teeth in soccer, basketball, and baseball whose authorities could not care less about safety.

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