Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Travel Ball: Pros, Cons, Injuries and Insurance



Travel ball rebounds from COVID

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth sports market in the United States was a $19 billion industry, according to a study by WinterGreen Research. Youth travel sports have rebounded from the impact of the pandemic. They now account for a significant segment of the market.

Youth sports travel teams are composed of athletes who play at an elite level in sports that include soccer, softball, baseball and lacrosse, among others. Teams travel long distances for games, tournaments and showcase events.

Along with offering a valuable learning and social experience for young athletes, travel sports provide a higher level of competition than participants might find locally. Children involved in youth travel sports also have more frequent opportunities to compete.

Parents of young athletes should consider the pros and cons of travel sports. Participation involves a significant investment of time, energy and money.


  • Travel sports events offer social benefits for athletes and their families
  • Opportunity to learn skills and understanding of the sport beyond what school and local recreation leagues provide
  • Increase in athlete’s self-esteem and confidence level, socially and athletically
  • Camaraderie with fellow travel sports participants and bonding time with family


  • Expense of participation including registration fees, lodging, meals, equipment, camps, private coaching
  • Performance pressure and anxiety – being part of an elite team brings higher expectations for the athlete 
  • Increased risk of injury – concussions, repetitive motion/overuse injuries, torn ligaments, heatstroke and broken bones, as well as accidents while traveling to and from events

Travel ball and injuries

According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 3.5 million injuries requiring medical treatment occur annually in youth sports.  Because participation in youth travel sports can increase the likelihood of overuse injuries, it is important to stay focused on prevention. 

At Sadler Sports Insurance, we track the injuries for many of our sports programs. As a general rule, our injury report statistics indicate a higher number of injuries during games versus practice and a higher incidence of injuries as age and skill levels increase.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) and the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) have partnered to help prevent youth sports injuries by creating the STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries program. Learn more about sports specific injuries here. 

Personal experience with travel soccer

As a parent with two daughters who played travel soccer for SC United FC, it was a very positive experience. I found that the organization was well managed and hired excellent coaches with the safety and well being of my daughters at heart. The association had excellent contractual transfer protection through waiver/release, concussion risk management, and child abuse risk management.

Both my wife and I as well as my daughters were able to form lifelong bonds with the other participants. Now that my youngest daughter has aged out and gone to college, I find myself missing the travel soccer experience.

Travel ball insurance

As experts in youth sports association insurance, Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance recognizes the risks travel sports organizations face. We provide many different insurance programs for travel ball in almost all sports with our instant online quote / pay / print and best in industry risk management resources to prevent the injury or lawsuits from ever becoming an insurance claim.

Almost all travel teams need the following insurance policies to protect the organization, directors, officers, coaches, volunteers, and athletic participants:


General Liability

Directors & Officers Liability





Youth Sports Misconduct Extends To Social Media

And includes cyberbullying

The excitement of a new school year brings enthusiasm for the beginning of many youth sports seasons. As competitions get underway, coaches, activity directors and athletic staff also may become aware of instances of bullying and cyberbullying.

Children’s sports team coaches and athletic staff may be surprised to learn that the fundamentals of sportsmanship now extend to participants’ online behavior.

In the past, emphasis has been on exercising good sportsmanship on the playing field or court. Today, participants can endanger themselves or their organization with sports misconduct while online.

Examples of cyberbullying violations

It is a violation of Safe Sport risk management programs if a staff member knows or should have known of bullying behavior, but takes no action to intervene. Athletic staff need training to recognize, address and prevent such behavior.

Youth sports misconduct includes using electronic communication against someone to:

  • Harass
  • Frighten
  • Intimidate
  • Humiliate
  • Threaten
  • Socially isolate

Prohibited cyberbullying behavior also includes attempts to diminish or exclude another participant physically, emotionally or sexually.

According to the most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities

State laws address cyberbullying

While there is no Federal law that specifically applies to cyberbullying, individual states have laws to protect people from bullying. Click here to see your state’s laws.

Often, it is not the staff, but other participants – such as parents or guardians – who perpetrate bullying. School sports and activity programs need to be aware that good sportsmanship applies, whether in the sport or activity itself, or online.

It is important to note that bullying does not include group or team behaviors to encourage a culture of team unity and/or harder training effort. To learn more about what constitutes bullying, see the Sadler Child Abuse Protection Program.

A participant or parent/guardian who participates in any act of bullying should be subject to appropriate disciplinary action including but not limited to suspension, permanent ban, and referral to law enforcement authorities.

League organizers, sports complex managers, board members, coaches, athletes, umpires and performers involved in youth sports face unique risks.

Types of cyberbullying lawsuits

As the ease of digital communication evolves, an environment conducive to cyberbullying flourishes. A single inappropriate post or action can put you and your organization at risk. At any moment, an accusation of negligence, abuse, neglect or misconduct can be alleged, along with a lawsuit alleging bodily injury, emotional distress, personal injury, or failure to follow your own rules and bylaws if you don’t take action to address a prohibited activity.

Protect Yourself

The best way to protect yourself is to formally adopt and implement a Child Abuse Protection Plan such as the one that we have customized for our clients. In addition, you should protect yourself and your organization with the purchase of both General Liability and Directors & Officers Liability insurance. Call Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance at (800) 622-7370 to learn more or click on “get quote” in the top navigation bar above to find the custom program which best fits your needs.


Foul Ball Injuries to Spectators in MLB

Current netting standards offer insufficient protection

Over the years, we’ve occasionally tackled the topic of foul ball injuries to baseball spectators. The problem is insufficient netting along the baselines and behind home plate. In 2018, a 79-year-old woman died from the injury sustained on her birthday by a foul ball at Dodgers Stadium.

In 2014, Dwayne Sowa sat just past third base and 18 rows from the field at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. As he paid a vendor, a foul ball slammed into the right side of Sowa’s forehead. Sowa required surgery to repair a crushed bone above his right eye. Five years later, side effects plague him.

If his seat had been only a few feet further in toward home plate, he might not have been hit. That’s because the Phillies’ netting does not extend the full length of the first and third-base lines to the foul poles.

Who is doing what to reduce foul ball injuries

In December 2015, MLB recommended teams provide expanded netting to shield seats 70’ along both foul lines from home plate. But only a handful of teams followed through–until September 2017. That’s when a foul ball severely injured a little girl at Yankee Stadium. All teams then installed the recommended netting.

The Chicago White Sox led the league this year in extending protective netting all the way to the foul poles. Only 13 of the 30 MLB teams have plans to extend netting. Teams extending in the 2019 season are:

  • Chicago White Sox
  • Atlanta Braves
  • Washington Nationals
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Houston Astros

Teams extending nets by 2020 are:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Milwaukee Brewers
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Texas Rangers
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Philadelphia Phillies

The other 17 teams have not announced plans for extending their netting.

The NBC News investigation into foul ball injuries

None of the 30 teams or MLB itself would give NBC information about the number of incidents and Foul Ball injuries in baseballinjuries at their ballparks. Some teams said they don’t track that data, others said it was a privacy issue.

Nonetheless, NBC News found that MLB reported 808 fan injuries from baseballs between 2012 and 2019. The majority of the injuries resulted from foul balls. Others resulted from home runs, batting practice, and fans scrambling to catch balls hit into the stands.

NBC’s numbers are based on news reports, lawsuits, social media postings and information from the contractors that provide first aid stations at MLB stadiums. The numbers are most likely much higher.

Bob Gorman, author of “Death at the Ballpark,” is sure of that. “I think the teams know it. I think they’ve intentionally downplayed it” he said.

The impact of a hit

Baseballs are hard and about the size of a small fist. Major league baseballs fly off the bat at 100 mph or more. It only takes about a second after leaving the bat to hit a fan at that speed. Who has the skill to catch that? Former Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones doubts he would.

“Even if I’m watching a game, and a 105 mph foul ball comes at me, and I’m ready for it, there’s still a good chance I could miss it,” he said.

The conditions of the ballpark, the equipment and even the technology of the game have changed. Players are stronger than ever, the pitchers throwing faster, and the balls coming off the bat harder. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the number of foul balls per game has increased by 10 percent since 2000.

Fans can’t be expected to pay attention to every minute of the game. They buy food from vendors in the stands, watch instant replays and entertainment on the large screens, keep their eyes on the scoreboards, and constantly look at and take pictures with their phones. In addition, the tempo of the game allows for fans to chat and cheer with seat mates, which keeps their eyes off the field.

What’s ahead?

Sowa initiated legal action against the Phillies but dropped the case after his attorney cited the longstanding “Baseball Rule.” Every ticket is stamped with the disclaimer that reads “the ticketholder assumes all risk, danger and injury incidental to the game of baseball…”

Sowa doesn’t attend baseball games anymore out of fear of being hit. He hopes all 30 teams will eventually extend their protective netting out to the foul poles. Because he looks forward to taking his 5-year old son to a game one day.

Source: Tak, Nguyen, Enoch and Lehren. “Foul balls hurt hundreds of fans at MLB ballparks. See where your team stands on netting.” 01 Oct., 2019.

Vehicles Damaged by Foul Balls: Does General Liability Cover?

Smashed windshields and dents are a common occurrence at ballparks.

The windshield of a spectator who parked outside of your baseball field was smashed by a foul ball. The spectator presents a $450 bill to the league president asking for reimbursement. Your baseball league carries a General Liability policy through a reputable carrier, so there is no doubt that the insurance carrier will pay the bill, right?

Well, probably not. Here’s why.

General Liability responds to certain claims of negligence, but…

In brief, General Liability policies respond to allegations of negligence and resulting damages to a third party arising from “bodily injury” or “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” that is not subject to the policy exclusions.

In the case of a vehicle damage claim, the coverage requirements for an “occurrence” and “property damage” are met. And, there are no exclusions that are likely to apply in this scenario. But, the question remains whether or not negligence was involved and if there are any defenses.

Under the law of negligence, in order to prevail, the injured party must prove the following four elements:

  1. Duty of care owed to spectator
  2. Duty breached by failure to operate as a reasonable and prudent league
  3. The breach of duty caused the injury
  4. Damages can be proven.

If anyone of these elements can be defeated, a claimant technically can’t prevail under the law of negligence. But it gets a little more complicated when certain legal defenses can be used by the league, such as assumption of a known risk.

Assumption of a known risk defense

Under the assumption of risk defense, an injured party (such as a spectator) can’t prevail if he or she has assumed a known risk that is an inherent part of the activity. The reason for this legal defense is because the courts want to provide an incentive for the public to protect themselves in situations where they know they are subjected to risk. The assumption-of-known-risk doctrine applies not only to damaged vehicles, but also to spectators injured by foul balls under the baseball rule.

In the case of cars parked near a baseball field, fact situations exist where the vehicle driver/owner assumes a known risk. As a result, the claim will likely be denied. Likewise, fact situations exist where the driver/owner does not assume a known risk. That claim will likely be paid.

We conducted a study of a large baseball association client where member leagues incurred many vehicle damage claims over the past five years. Below we share some of the findings. As a rule of thumb, the determination of coverage by the claims adjuster depends on the relationship between the driver/owner of the vehicle and the league, and their reason for parking.

19 Cases where the damage to vehicle claim was paid (no assumption of risk)

  • Car owned by a neighbor and parked in his yard next to ball field.
  • Vehicle parked at the ball field while owner attended an educational class in the nearby gym.
  • Car parked at ball field while the owner attended a function not related to the baseball game.
  • Automobile parked in front of owner’s home close to field.
  • Car parked across the street from ball field when hit by foul ball.
  • Non-patron’s car hit by foul ball.
  • Car hit while the owner was playing tennis nearby.
  • Vehicle parked along street when hit by foul ball.
  • Claimant attending a soccer game when his car was damaged by a baseball.
  • Non-patron’s car hit by foul ball.
  • Passerby’s vehicle hit while driving down street.
  • Foul ball smashed windshield of car parked across street.
  • Non-patron vehicle rear windshield struck by foul ball.
  • Claimant parked car at unoccupied field prior to game taking place.
  • Passerby car struck by foul ball
  • Claimant parked and attending a basketball game when his car was struck by baseball.
  • Foul ball struck car driving down street.
  • Claimant parked on street while attending church when car was damaged by a baseball.

What do all of these claims have in common? The owner/driver of the vehicle was not attending the baseball game at the time the vehicle was damaged. Since they were not attending the ball game, they did not assume a known risk.

5 Cases where the vehicle damage claim was not paid (assumption of risk)

  • Claimant was watching the baseball game when his car was damaged by a foul ball.
  • Umpire was officiating a baseball game when his car was struck.
  • Player’s car damaged by foul ball while he was playing in game.
  • Spectator was watching game when foul ball shattered his windshield.
  • Spectator’s car was damaged by foul ball while in attendance at game.

What is the common denominator when the vehicle damage claims are denied under the assumption of risk doctrine? In these cases, the driver of the vehicle was either participating as a spectator, player, or umpire. This group of individuals should know, based on their own experience, that foul balls and home runs are a part of the game and the risks involved to parked cars.

Are there exceptions that might be considered on a case by case basis? Some claims adjusters may reach a different conclusion. For example, when a handicapped participant or spectator is directed to park in a specified handicapped parking space.

Foul ball damage to vehiclesThe role of signage

To temper the expectations of spectators and other participants, prudent league operators and facility owners should consider posting signage warning of such risks. Examples include: “Park At Your Own Risk: Foul Balls and Home Runs May Strike Vehicles” or “FOUL BALL WARNING! Vehicles Parked In This Lot Assume Any And All Liability For Damages Caused By Foul Balls. PARK AT YOUR OWN RISK. However, such signage is not a requirement to trigger an assumption of risk defense.

If you found this article to be beneficial, be sure to check out our entire risk management content library and our searchable sports insurance blog for other important information on how to better protect your sports organization.

Commotio Cordis in Sports and New NOCSAE Standard on Chest Protectors

Looking to provide athletes the best heart protection possible

Commotio cordis is a sudden cardiac arrhythmia caused by a direct blow to the chest. It typically results from a low-velocity impact to the chest from a thrown or batted ball, puck or other object typically traveling between 20 and 50 mph. The risk increases the closer the impact is to the center of the heart.Death results when an abnormal rhythm, ventricular fibrillation, develops. However, blood circulation to the heart may also be affected.

For commotio cordis to occur, the impact has to be precisely timed to strike the heart during a 15 to 30-millisecond phase of the electrical cycle. It can cause sudden death in young baseball, softball and hockey players, as well as other athletes.

Commotio Cordis by the Numbers

  • The sport with the highest incidence of commotio cordis is baseball, followed by softball, hockey, football, soccer and lacrosse.
  • An overwhelming 95 percent of cases affect males.
  • The most frequently affected age group is 10 to 18 years.
  • Since 1995, the U.S. Commotio Cordis Registry received reports of over 225 cases. Many more unreported cases are suspected of having occurred.
  • The Registry reports a survival rate of 24 percent.

Survival Outcome

While instances of commotio cordis are rare, sadly, the death rate is 90 percent. Unfortunately, the lack of response to CPR efforts by healthy young athletes is unexplained.

History shows that responding with CPR efforts within three to five minutes is critical. Studies indicate AEDs and Risk Managementthat the chances of surviving an incident of commotio cordis are enhanced if a shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be delivered promptly. Most ballparks don’t have AEDs, and those that do must have well-practiced procedures in place for the rapid use of the device. Otherwise, all is for naught.

Also, the high-profile lawsuit in New Jersey of a pitcher being struck by a batted ball that came off of an alleged “hot bat” involved commotio cordis resulting in a permanent disability to the pitcher. The metal bat manufacturer and others were sued. What is interesting to note is that commotio cordis usually occurs only when a projectile travels at a relatively slow speed, usually between 20 and 50 mph. In this case, the basis for the lawsuit was that the ball speed was too fast as a result of the alleged “hot bat.”

Protecting Against Commotio Cordis

Researchers have been looking for solutions, typically in the form of chest protectors. But statistics show that somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of commotio cordis victims collapsed while wearing chest protection of some sort. Obviously, this means that the protection athletes were given wasn’t good enough.

Educating coaches, players and parents about the importance of preventing precordial blows is critical. For example, baseball and softball players should be taught to step aside or to turn and deflect balls using the shoulder, not the chest wall.

Commotio cordis is not related to an underlying heart condition. Therefore, susceptibility cannot be predetermined by a medical screening.

Spectators, players, and staff need to be able to recognize the signs of commotio cordis and take immediate action if a player is struck in the chest and collapses.

New NOCSAE Standards in Protection

In July 2018, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) set the world’s first performance standard for chest protection from commotio cordis. NOCSAE developed separate versions for baseball and lacrosse. Governing bodies of the various sports will decide whether or not they include compliance with these NOCSAE standards in their rules of play and when that goes into effect.

The Science Behind the New Standards

Together with the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation, NOCSAE funded more than $1.1 million in Commotio cordis standards for chest protectorsresearch that pinpointed the cause of commotio cordis, including the critical moment of occurrence. To test impacts to the chest and heart, research engineers then developed a mechanical chest that mimics the human response of the human. All this led to NOCSAE creating the first commotio cordis-specific chest protection standard. NOCSAE looks to reduce the risk of death significantly from commotio cordis for athletes using equipment certified to this new standard.

Chest Protector Certifications By SEI

The Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) issued the first certifications for chest protectors that meet NOCSAE’s new standard. The NOCSAE criteria support a test method that produces reliable measurements to evaluate various types of chest protectors.

Chest protector manufacturers participating in SEI’s certification program must also have their facility and operations audited for quality assurance.  Additionally, all products labeled SEI and NOCSAE-certified must be recertified annually. Yes, all products have to be retested, and the manufacturing facility successfully meets all SEI quality-assurance requirements each year.  SEI serves as the world’s premier certification organization for safety and protective products.

High School Rule Change in Baseball For Catchers

The standard update for chest protectors resulted in a rule change by the Baseball Rules Committee of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Rule 1-5-3, effective January 1, 2020, requires catchers wear chest protectors that meet the NOCSAE standard as the time of manufacture. Knowing that catchers are wearing equipment certified by the latest safety standards provides players, coaches, parents and school administrators assurance that athletes have the best heart protection possible, said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services. Other youth baseball organizations will need to address whether or not they will follow the lead of NFHS.

No Guarantees of Protection and Opponents of New Standard

It’s important to note that neither NOCSAE nor SEI offer any guarantees of protection from the certified chest protectors. They clearly state that no thoracic or chest protector can prevent all cardiac injuries, and that catastrophic injury and death may occur to a wearer of a NOCSAE and SEI-certified protector.

Opponents of the new standard point out that neither NOCSAE, SEI, nor any manufacturer can say affirmatively that their product does prevent commotio cordis. Also, many question if the additional expense of compliance is worth protecting the very low number of athletes impacted by this rare condition, especially since there are no guarantees. Others wonder if the new chest protectors may cause unintended consequences such as adding an additional heat layer that may contribute to heat illness.

If you found this blog on commotio cordis to be beneficial, please check out our other sports risk management content, and other risk management blog posts.

Commotio cordis

Leading Causes of Sports Lawsuits: Improper Supervision & Instruction

Supervision: It’s more than just keeping an eye on things.

The need for amateur sports administrators to understand their legal responsibilities with regard to supervision and instruction can’t be stressed enough. In the arena of amateur sports, lack of supervision is the most common cause of action in lawsuits. Injuries resulting in these types of lawsuits are typically avoidable if proper supervision occurs. Below are the three most important reasons to stress supervision as a way to avoid legal liability.

  1. Injured people suffer and miss time away from playing the game, school, or work.
  2. If a serious injury occurs, negative media attention can have a significant impact on the success of your sports program.
  3. The loss record of your insurance program must be protected against serious losses to prevent future rate increases.

Supervision in the context of amateur sports is defined as overseeing the activities of the sports program. This includes recognizing potential hazards, implementing risk management measures, and monitoring for compliance. For our purposes, we break supervision down into two categories: general supervision and specific supervision.

General Supervision

The responsibility of general supervision falls on your risk management officer and other administrators (such as officers and board members). It is their duty to oversee the big picture of your risk management Instruction in amateur sportsprogram. They do this by instructing, training, and monitoring staff members on how to carry out their own duties of supervision.

Meeting the standard of care

The basic steps required to be taken under general supervision include appointing a risk management officer and adopting a written risk management plan. We offer templates on our risk management page to help you accomplish this task. Also important is selecting suitable staff and monitoring staff performance of their duties. This means screening staff with applications and background checks. Staff training or certification is key. We recommend seeking out a credible organization such the National Alliance for Youth Sports for such training. An integral part of any risk management plan is being able to document everything you’re doing. This certainly holds true for your policies and procedures regarding supervision.

Specific Supervision

Administrators should consider three basic questions regarding supervision.

  • What is the player to coach/trainer ratio?
  • In which area(s) are coaches/trainers trained and certified, if any?
  • Are policies in place regarding supervision, and if so is there accountability regarding current policy?

The liability risk of any sports program can be reduced greatly if the following guidelines regarding supervision are followed:

Rowdiness: Horseplay and roughhousing of participants and those on the sidelines ends in a great number of senseless and avoidable injuries in youth sports. Injuries can range from a player falling/jumping off bleachers to a teen athlete having an accident in the parking lot while showing off. Nonetheless, it is the coach’s responsibility to properly supervise players and keep them safe. Staff should be aware of this, recognize these activities, and put a stop to them using appropriate means. The first step in doing so is having an adequate number of coaches and staff members present and alert. Getting the buy-in from parents is also key to keeping such behavior to a minimum.

Supervisor-to-Participant Ratio: The ability to adequately observe, instruct, supervise and correct only occurs when an appropriate number of staff supervisors are present at an activity. Arrange ahead of time for sufficient team supervision during practices, games and extracurricular activities.

Supervisor Location: The staff supervisor should always be in close proximity to an activity. This means he or she should be able to personally observe, instruct, supervise and correct. This applies to sports activities and non-sports extracurricular activities, i.e. team outings, backyard cookouts, etc. One example of this type of situation is the drowning of a player who attended a team picnic. Another is children causing damage while climbing on a water fountain at an awards banquet.

Participants Size, Age, and Skill: Never mix participants of various sizes, ages, and skill levels. All too often we’ve seen injuries result when a younger team scrimmages an older team outside of age range. The sports organization should be restricting age range categories and prohibiting any play against outside competition if participants fall outside of these categories. Staff members of individual teams should not match players of different skill levels or sizes in dangerous drills. And staff should, of course, never personally injure participants during practice instruction.


Instruction goes hand-in-hand with supervision because the instructor is a supervisor. Many sports organization require formal training for their coaches through organizations such as the National Alliance For Youth Sports. The training covers general topics that are common to all coaches such as the psychological needs of youth and how to respond to injuries as well as a sport specific segment. Such training can also be required by state legislative law and by municipalities as a pre condition of being able to use the fields. Such formal programs may satisfy the legal requirement for instruction training. Again, following the guidelines below greatly reduces the risk of liability.

Sport-specific techniques

Administrators should require coaches to follow best-accepted practices for teaching sport-related techniques. Coaches should receive continuing education on the latest techniques on how to run a practice and how to teach technical skills.

Put particular emphasis on the more hazardous areas of the specific sport. For example, the position of the player’s head during a tackle is a fundamental area of instruction. Likewise, in baseball/softball, it’s critical that athletes are taught the proper method for avoiding a wild pitch or how to slide  into a base.

Review of Safety Rules and Procedures

The governing/sanctioning body or sports organization should require a pre-season a review by administrators and staff of any rule changes. Likewise, a review of rules and policies with players should take place before every season and a review of specific rules prior to every practice and game.


The vast majority of lawsuits filed against clients of Sadler sports and recreation insurance allege lack of supervision and instruction. The alleged negligence is both at the administrator level due to lack of planning/oversight and the staff level as well. In particular, we have seen a number of serious injuries and resulting lawsuits arise from mixing participants of different sizes, ages, and skill levels.

USA Baseball Bat Rule Now in Effect for 2018 Season

New lighter bats mimic wood and may result in fewer injuries

Some time ago, we shared the news of an impending change in standards for bats used in youth baseball. The change, which went into effect January 1, 2018, was adopted by AABC, Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken, Dixie, Little League, and PONY. USSSA did not, but will permit bats with the new USABat stamp as long as the organization’s size/weight/material specifications are met.

USA Baseball made minor modifications to the BBCOR standard currently followed by the NCAA and NFHS. The modifications account for differences in bat lengths, pitching speeds and balls in the younger age groups.

The new standards require leagues to use bats produced to perform at the wood-like level for youth baseball among all lengths and weights. The rule requires all bats used in games and practices to have the USA Baseball stamp.

Several manufacturers will make the new bats available at prices ranging from $20 to more than $350. That is what bats typically sell for, but bats currently in use must be replaced. That’s a budget stretcher for teams/leagues that provide bats for players. Many families cannot afford to buy bats and other equipment for their children. But the truth is that everyone has had at least two years to prepare for this change.

What’s behind the change?

Many think the new bat rule was put in place as a step forward in safety, particularly Dixie Boys Baseball insurancefor that of infielders and pitchers. But USA Baseball’s website states it wants players to get used to bats that perform like wooden bats to ensure “the long-term integrity” of the game.

However, the issue of bat safety isn’t new. Baseball is the sport with the highest fatality rate among 5 to 14-year-olds in the last decade. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported three or four deaths each year since 2009. In 2015, the year the new standard was announced, there was a notable spike in baseball injuries in all age categories.

The primary difference in the new USA Baseball bats is the elimination of the “drop weight” factor. Drop weight is the difference between length (in inches) and weight (in ounces). Since bats can now be made of the lightest weight materials there is no need to limit the drop-weight.

What’s ahead?

Some in youth baseball expect the USA Baseball bats to reduce the long ball. Kids may be disappointed by hitting fewer home runs over the fence. But the new standard allows for a slightly wider barrel (up to 2 5/8 inch diameter rather than 2 1/4), which should increase contact with the ball. And what kid doesn’t want a hit?

Source: Steve Craig. “Youth baseball finds safety in new bats, but at a price.” 11 Feb 2018.

Foul Ball Netting Installed in All MLB Stadiums

Baseball Spectators No Longer Screaming “Foul Ball”

A few years back I wrote about spectator injuries at the ballpark. It focused on the dangers fans face from missile-like wayward foul balls and splintering bats. Some of the injuries sustained by these fans are quite serious.

However, history show the courts historically follow the “baseball rule,” which insulates baseball teams and stadiums from liability if protective netting is installed behind home plate. Protection from liability is also couched in the assumption of risk spectators agree to that’s printed on the back of their tickets.

Spectators at risk

It’s long been a point of contention that the netting should be extended well past the Preventing baseball fan injurieshome plate area. Statistics show that the most serious of these types of injuries occur along the foul lines.

All sorts of distractions from cell phones to the jumbotron leave spectators vulnerable to these unintended missiles shooting into the stands. It takes less than a  second for a foul ball to fly into the stands. Bats that were once made of ash are now thinner-handled maple wood, which is more prone to splintering.


In the past year or so, one by one, Major League Baseball teams began installing netting farther down the base lines. Some go as far as the dugout and others all the way down to the pole.  Last week, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays were the last two teams to agree to extend netting past the plate in their stadiums.

It goes without saying that extended netting in stadiums should drastically lower the rate of fan injuries.

That’s all well and good. But the courts still rely on the baseball rule when injured fans sue for damages.

The seriously injured fan who led the charge for extended netting has been embroiled in appeals for years. His medical costs (and likely his court costs) were extensive.  His next stop is the Supreme Court of New York, where it’s doubtful he’ll win. The remedial measures to extend netting is strong evidence of teams knowing that fans can’t be expected to dodge 90-mph foul balls. When will the baseball rule be thrown out?

Source: Major League Baseball Finally Does the Right Thing: Viewpoint.” 02 Feb 2018.

Verbal Abuse, Violence Driving Umpires/Referees Out of Sports

Officials cite verbal abuse and threats as reason for decline

The Washington Post recently ran a story on the shortage of referees in youth sports. It spotlighted several former game officials recounting their many negative experiences. These included instances of verbal abuse by players, coaches and parents, feeling threatened physically, and lack of support from league and school administrators.

One D.C.-area baseball official assigning group is reporting it’s lowest number of umpires in over 25 years. Only 50% of their first-year umpires return to the job. About 20% of those officiating for five to seven years come back. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, just two out of every 10 officials across all sports return for a third year.

Youth soccer, in particular, suffers from a decline in referees, even as player participation continues to rise year after year. Incidences of red cards remains static. But the number of red cards for filthy and abusive language, often directed at officials, has doubled in the past year.

There’s no reason to expect this trend to change any time in the foreseeable future. The increasing referee shortage means even more game cancellations in the future than are already being experienced.

The responsibility of administrators

High school assistant football coach Scott Hartman told of being verbally attacked by players and their coach following a call he made. After the game, parents and fans hurled insults at the other officials and him. The school’s director of student activities escorted them to their cars, but chastised the referees for missing several possible fouls by the opposing team.

You’re the exact reason that we’re losing referees, and you’re the reason that parents and coaches are out of control,” Hartman told him.

Hartman points out that there are schools that make maintaining decorum a priority.

But many administrators are obviously more concerned about wins and losses, not holding coaches accountable for poor behavior.

Virginia’s Commonwealth Soccer Officials Association (CSOA) conducted inspections at Northern Virginia high schools. Loud vocal disapproval was observed in 85% of the 42 matches observed. Of those, profanity by spectators was involved in 20%.
Not surprisingly, female officials suffer all this and more. Many say they encounter sexism at nearly every event, are spat upon and called whores. “I’ve been called that and worse in at least a dozen languages” said long-time soccer official Thea Bruhn.

A tolerant environment

Officiating organizations are accused of encouraging referees to tolerate behavior by fans, players and parents. Other say coaches even dictate to officiating organizations which referees will work certain games.

Personal and advertising injuryOther factors include travel leagues that are full of aggressive parents making demands as they push for college scholarships. And young athletes observe admired professional players berating referees and exhibiting poor sportsmanship.

To participate in games, umpires and referees frequently have to leave their day jobs early and travel good distances. They often return home lateat night. Pay for youth rec through varsity-level leagues ranges from $25 to $65 per game. It’s no wonder many are deciding they’re no longer willing to sacrifice their time and energy when they’re shown so little regard.

We encourage officials to read Referee & Umpire Insurance. For more information or quote on Referee & Umpire Insurance please call us at (800) 622-7370.

Source:  Nick Ellerson.  “Verbal abuse from parents, coaches is causing a referee shortage in youth sports.” 16 June 2017.

Refuting Reports of Increased Concussion Rates in Youth Sports

Looking at the facts

Reckless reporting and alarmist headlines about rising concussion rates in youth sports are a pet peeve of mine. Parents, athletes, coaches and league administrators deserve to have the facts presented responsibly on such a serious topic.

The headline on a recent article by a doctor screamed “Concussion rates are rising among U.S. youth.” What the doctor didn’t say in the article is that concussion rates are NOT rising; concussion reporting is rising.

Our internal Accident insurance claim statistics reveal the following increases in the reporting of concussion claims as a percentage of total claims reported:


Youth baseball

Youth football

Concussion rates prior to 2012



Concussion rates 2012-16



The significant increases in concussion claims reported over these time periods have nothing to do with change in the risk factors in these two sports over this time period. These increases have everything to do with educational awareness.

We have concussion education efforts and concussion laws on the books in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to thank for that. These efforts have brought about a heightened awareness of concussion recognition, initial diagnosis and treatment, and return to play monitoring. The increase in the number of reported concussions only reflects how many youth athletes were walking around with undiagnosed concussions in the past.

Promoting educational awareness and risk management

Over a year ago, I wrote about the need for increased efforts in concussion education, stating, “Fear of concussion among many parents is affecting their decision to permit their children to participate in contact sports.” And nearly two years ago, I said in an article addressing the media’s concussion hype,  “The best outcome is the awareness being brought to the general puConcussion risk managementblic about diagnosis, second-impact syndrome, removal, and return-to-play policies.“

I’m pleased to see that all this awareness resulting in more athletes getting the medical care necessary, which enables them to return to playing after treatment and full recovery. The Center for Disease Control’s HEADS UP offers many resources to help parents, coaches, administrators, and healthcare providers recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussions or other serious brain injuries.

We’re proud to continually provide up-to-date and credible information on sports concussions and a variety of sports injury and risk management-related topics on our blog.

Source: Brad C. Gollinger. “Concussion rates are rising among U.S. youth.” 07 Mar., 2017.