According to a recent five-year study, 55 percent of ballfield injuries to runners occur when they slide into a base, and 47 percent of all runners' injuries result in fractures. Those kinds of statistics are painful, and smart sports and recreation directors will look for ways to reduce the risks for kids as well as adults who take to their fields.
Q: How can I help reduce the risk of injury for ballplayers on our fields?
A: Since more than half of injuries occur as runners are sliding into a base, it follows that the bases are the first place to look to reduce injuries. Traditional stationary bases include two parts: a metal post sunk into the ground and fixed in concrete, and a pillow base bolted to a metal pole that fits into the pole in the ground. This setup makes for rigid, unmoving bases: In fact, it takes 3,500 pounds of force to dislodge one of these bases.
To reduce injury, you should consider doing away with these older-style bases and go with a new releasable system. These consist of three major parts. Similar to traditional bases, there is a metal pole sunk into the ground and fixed in concrete. From there, a rubber mat is bolted to a pole that's inserted into the ground, while a separate pillow then fits onto the rubber mat. When players step on the base, it stays in place, but if a runner slides hard into the base, the pillow can release from the mat.
Q: What else should I know?
A: In addition to being a smart strategy to reduce the risk of injury for players on your field, you should also be aware that as of the 2008 season, the Little League actually began requiring all local leagues to use bases that disengage from the anchor.
Also, remember that the bases will be taking a beating, so you should look for highly durable materials, such as cut-resistant polyurethane.
Q: Does this mean I'll have to start from scratch?
A: Luckily, installing a releasable base system doesn't mean you have to start all over again. In most cases, no permanent changes to existing below-ground structure are required. Some systems fit onto base anchors that are in cement below the ground and are easily removed after the game.