Debating the use of reduced-impact ball
The following is an excerpt from the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Committee report:
Based on the research performed by USA Baseball and other investigators demonstrating that a reduced-impact ball can decrease the incidence and severity of ball impact injuries to less skilled players aged 5-12, the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee recommends:
That youth baseball organizations adopt for their Tee-Ball and other “minor league” programs that are focused on skill development, reduced-impact baseballs that meet NOCSAE standards levels 1 and 2.
- This recommendation does not diminish the importance of teaching fundamental baseball skills and ball avoidance skills and techniques for batters.
- Current scientific literature on the prevention of commotio cordis by chest protectors is not adequate and therefore the effect of any equipment on the risk of chest impact death remains unsubstantiated at this time.
In my opinion…
I know from the ongoing injury study that I perform for Dixie Youth Baseball (ages 12 and under) that three of the leading causes of injury are being struck by batted balls, thrown balls, and pitched balls. The vast majority of injuries that occur in T-ball and coach pitch are from being struck by batted balls and thrown balls. These injuries in the lower age groups are primarily caused by lack of skills.
Based on my personal observation in working with youth baseball players ages 5-8, players learn skills better when some of the fear factor is removed. I would say that softer baseballs definitely remove some of the fear factor, which can result in more quality practice sessions in terms of repetitions and the development of skills. As players move up from T-ball and coach pitch, the skill levels are usually such that the types of injuries that could theoretically be prevented or reduced by reduced-impact balls don’t come into play as often.
From an injury analysis point of view, it is almost impossible to determine if a reduced-impact ball could have prevented or reduced an accident insurance claim. It is much easier to predict the outcome of using other safety equipment such as batter’s face guards or catcher’s throat protectors as they about 99% effective in preventing injury.