Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Benching of Youth Participants and Resulting Lawsuits

Parents who pay want their child to play

It’s not yet what you’d call a trend, but there’s certainly an uptick in the number of parents filing lawsuits to get their child off the bench and onto the playing field.

Parents put out big bucks in registrations fees, equipment and travel costs associated with high school and youth club and travel teams, to say nothing of the time they invest attending practices and traveling to games. Many parents sacrifice their time and money for their children hoping to get the attention of college coaches, earn scholarships, and improve chances of college admissions – or even advance a professional athletic career. So, it’s understandable that some are dissatisfied when their child rides the bench more than he or she plays. In other words, they expect a payoff for their investment.

There is also an increase in lawsuits by parents of children who have been cut from teams, injured, disciplined by coaches or penalized by officials. But is hiring an attorney the answer? Many are questioning not only the attitude of entitlement, but how the children, who generally play for the fun and camaraderie, are affected by such lawsuits. What are the children learning when parents step in so heavily handed to smooth the way? Will they learn they’re entitled to play on a team simply because they attend practice? And are parents setting these athletes up to be bullied by other team members?

The increasingly competitive nature of youth sports has helped shift many parents’ focus from fun, exercise and sportsmanship to an investment in their children’s academic and professional futures. Youth sports officials are watching the case of a 16-year-old volleyball player. The girl earned spot on a volleyball league but ended up on the bench, so her parents filed suit against the volleyball association, alleging it won’t let the girl play or to switch teams, per the contract she signed.

General Liability policies, which typically only respond to certain lawsuits alleging bodily injury or property damage, don’t cover these types of lawsuits that allege loss of college scholarship or loss of pro career. Such lawsuits generally require a Professional Liability endorsement on a General Liability policy or a stand alone Professional Liability policy.


Source: Tracey Schelmetic, sportsdestinations.com, 21 Apr. 2015.

Boundary Dispute Fells Little League Champs

When adults cheat, it’s the kids who pay

Fraud and cheating occur too frequently in government, business, education, mediaand, sadly, even youth sports organizations.

Little League stripped the Jackie Robinson West team of its U.S. championship and suspended its coach for violating the league’s team boundary rule. In what can only be called a team-building effort, team officials altered a league map that determines the areas from which players can be recruited.

In addition to the team being relieved of its international tournament wins, the team manager was suspended the administrator of Illinois District 4 was removed. But it was the players, who were unaware of the team’s manipulation, who paid the highest price. Mountain Ridge Little League was awarded the championship.

It was an agonizing decision but critical in upholding the integrity of Little League, according to Stephen Keener, Little League International president and CEO.

Over the past 10 years, a number of Sadler Sports Insurance sports league clients were sued over boundary disputes involving the eligibility of a particular player (usually a superstar). Disqualification of an ineligible player by a sanctioning body prior to a tournament can result in a legal challenge for injunctive relief asking to halt the tournament until the judge can rule on eligibility. Due to the legal expenses and inconvenience involved, it is recommended that sanctioning bodies have tight boundary rules that are not subject to alternate interpretations. And, of course, they must always follow their own rules when making a decision.

Source: Tom Farrey, “Little League punishes Chicago team,” espn.go.com. 11 Feb. 2015.

Spectator Injuries at the Ballpark

Does the “Baseball Rule” need to be revisited?

Spectators and baseball stadium employees occasionally suffer injuries from home run balls and shattered bats flying into the stands. However, foul balls were the most frequent cause of the 1,750 spectator injuries that occurred last year in major league baseball, according to Elias Sports Bureau.  That number translates to about two injuries for every three games. That’s more than the 1535 occurrences of batters being hit by pitches in the 2013 season.

What’s worse is the rising trend in foul ball injuries. Contributing to the increase in incidents are seats in the new and renovated ballparks being seven percent closer to the field, stronger players, and spectators who are increasingly distracted by smart phones and the flashing messages and graphics on enormous electronic scoreboards.

Hard-hitting facts

Fans have almost no time to respond to foul balls driving into the stands, sometimes at more than 100 mph. A ball traveling at 80 mph is traveling 117 feet per second. Spectators sitting 150 feet from home plate have only a second to dodge the missile.

In response to the 2002 death of a fan by a flying puck, the National Hockey League required netting behind the goal and taller Plexiglas shields over the side boards. Major League Baseball has done almost nothing to reduce such risks and maintains that individual teams are responsible for the safety of spectators. Following the death of a minor league first-base coach in 2007 after being hit by a line drive into foul territory, it was mandated that all base coaches must wear helmets.

The “Baseball Rule” culture

The courts are apparently paying attention:  judges hearing appeals in Georgia and Idaho this year rejected arguments invoking the “Baseball Rule.” That’s a long-standing principle that absolves stadium owners and teams from liability as long as the spectators in the seats behind home plate are protected by netting.

MLB teams are responsible for their stadium backstop designs, display of warning signs and following local safety ordinances. Injuries this year took place in seating in field level and 2nd-tier seats, as well as the higher sections that are typical landing grounds for home run balls.

Source: David Glovin, bloomberg.com, 09 Sept. 2014.

Swimming outings source of liability claims

Safety first at team pool parties

The swimming outing in a coach’s backyard or at a motel pool during a tournament is commonly the source of drowning or near-drowning incidents.

Drowning among youth baseball and softball players seems to be a prevalent problem in youth sports leagues. Of course, this is not isolated to just the baseball/softball arena, but more common most likely because of spring and summer activity.

An 8-year-old boy nearly drowned during his football team pool party in Arizona. His parents were in attendance but distracted for just long enough. Fortunately, the child was rescued by another alert parent.  Unfortunately, most cases that we read about do not have such happy endings.

Sport-related injuriesVigilance is the key

Drowning is the second highest cause of accidental death in children under the age of 15, according to the Center for Disease Control.. Approximately 750 children will drown next year, 375 of whom will be within 25 yards of an adult.

Accidents cannot always be prevented. It’s critical, however, to be vigilant when dealing with children in youth sports organizations. Most of the time, not every one of the children has a parent or guardian with them, especially when the team travels.  These parents trust that the coaches and volunteers that they leave their children with will be monitoring their safety and bringing them back home in one piece.

Steps toward prevention

Simple precautions can be taken to lessen the risk of drowning.

  • Participation requires passing a swim test.

  • Instill in team members “the buddy system” so they’re accountable for each other.

  • Have at least one CPR-trained adult in attendance.

  • Prohibit alcohol consumption by adults at all youth parties.

  • Adults should not be involved in any distracting activity (such as grilling, reading, talking on phone)

  • Hire a certified lifeguard and require them to provide proof of adequate General Liability insurance.

The avoidance alternative

A number of Sadler Sports insurance clients have been sued for drowning or near drowning incidents resulting in very costly settlements. I’ve personally witnessed a number of incidents around pools where parents get caught up in conversations and lose their concentration for just a split second, and that’s all it takes.

In my opinion, the risks of serious injury and resulting lawsuits are so significant with swimming parties that such activities should be avoided as their risks outweigh their benefits. Avoidance of high risk activities is sports risk management 101 and I put swimming parties right up there with the use of 15 passenger vans (tip-over risks) and sleepovers (sex abuse and molestation risk).

You can find further information on pool safety on the American Red Cross website. If you have questions, please contact us.

Reducing Facial Injuries in Youth Baseball

Batter face guards improve injury statistics

A study of youth baseball Accident Insurance claims from 1994 to 2008 revealed that the batter’s face guard was effective in eliminating a significant percentage of facial injuries. Baseball facial InjuryThe study consisted of Accident claim data provided by Sadler Sports Insurance on behalf of Dixie Youth Baseball and Dixie Boys Baseball, which was analyzed by the USA Baseball Medical And Safety Advisory Committee.

Batter’s face guards were effective in reducing the number of facial injuries to batters being struck in the face by pitched balls and base runners being stuck in the face by thrown balls. The number of injuries dropped from about three percent in leagues where use of face guards was voluntary to less than half of one percent of all claims in leagues where their use was mandatory.

Even though the reduction in facial injuries was impressive, the USA Baseball Medical And Safety Advisory Committee noted that the batter’s face guard does not need to be required in youth baseball as a result of the overall low risk of facial injuries due to pitched balls. However, the use of the batter’s face guard should be encouraged and does not appear to pose an increased risk of injury to the batter, base runner, or to other players on the field.

See the full study.

MLB Catcher Concussion Rates Rising

Trend in 2013 season unknown

On any given day, there are between 60 and 75 catchers on major league rosters and about Baseball concussions15 percent of them have been on the disabled list specifically designed for concussions within the last 30 days.

Major League Baseball catchers are experiencing concussions at an alarming rate this season. At least one was caused by the accumulation of foul tips. I’m sure that MLB will be studying this trend carefully and develop suggestions to better protect catchers.

Our injury statistics for youth baseball Accident claims don’t indicate a frequency problem in this area. Since we started tracking injuries in 1994, about three tenths of one percent of total injuries involved catchers suffering concussions, and none were due to being hit in the mask by a foul tip.


Source: Aaron Gleeman, “Catchers are Suffering Concussions at an Alarming Rate,” hardballtalk.nbcsports.com. 21 Aug. 2013.

Moneyball in Youth Baseball

Elite players at higher risk of injury

An interesting investigative article was published in South Florida Sun Sentinel about the Youth baseball pitching injuriesupper echelons of youth travel baseball. Some of it’s subtitles and headers were Bidding Wars, Cutthroat Baseball, The Parent, Injuries, The Owners, The Prospect, The Wild West, and Big benefits/No guarantees.  Like it or not, travel baseball has carved out a significant niche in the youth baseball market.

From a sports insurance perspective, travel teams represent an increased risk of injury and liability as compared to recreation teams. This is due to higher level of competition with stronger bodies, higher speeds, and more risk taking, more games on the schedule, travel exposure, and exposures of motel downtime.  Another injury risk is burned out arms from year round baseball.  See the SA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee report on Youth Baseball Pitching Injuries that cites the total pitches thrown per year as the number one predictor of youth arm and shoulder injuries

Source: Amy Shipley; Florida Sun Sentinel, March 16, 2013.

$14.5 Million Bat Settlement

Little League, Manufacturer, and Retail Chain settle lawsuit

The  parents of a New Jersey boy agreed to settle his lawsuit for $14.5 Million against Little League Baseball, Inc., the manufacturer for Louisville Slugger bats, and The Sports Authority. The injury occurred in 2006 during a youth baseball game where the plaintiff was pitching and struck in the chest by a line drive hit by a metal bat. The plaintiff went into cardiac arrest resulting from a blow to the heart within the precise millisecond between heartbeats. This condition, known as commotio cordis, is extremely rare. Paramedics reached the scene within minutes and later revived the plaintiff but brain damage occurred. The plaintiff can’t perform any functions of his daily life according to his attorney.

Commotio cordisThe plaintiff alleged that the metal bat was unsafe because it produced an exit speed in excess of wooden bats. Even though the injury did not occur during a Little League game, it was argued that the bat that was used was approved, and thus deemed safe, by Little League.

My opinion: I know of no test that has shown that commotio cordis is more likely to occur at higher ball speeds as it frequently occurs at ball speeds under 40 mph. This settlement was most likely based on fear that the jury would disregard the law of negligence and make an emotional decision based on the extent of the damages. This settlement represents a significant loss for Little League’s General Liability insurance carrier and may send shockwaves through the sports insurance industry.  While a settlement does not set legal precedent, this news is not good for sporting goods manufactureres and sports sanctioning bodies that approve equipment.  Look for changes to be made in the labeling of stamps and for more disclaimers of liability in product instructions.

 

ACL Treatment in Youth Athletes

Delayed treatment increases chance of future knee injuries

Kids who are treated for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury more than 150 days ACL injuryafter the injury occurred could have a higher chance of future knee injuries.

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center conducted research on children who delayed ACL reconstruction surgery. The results showed that the delay increased the risk of having a medial meniscus or chondral injury in the knee in their future.

The additional injuries can cause prolonged recovery time, hinder their return to play, and worsen the long-term function of their knee.

The research also showed that out of 370 patients who had ACL reconstruction between 2005 and 2011, 200 patients were older than 15 and 170 patients were younger than 15. The study also showed children 15 or older having a higher chance of medial femoral chondral injury.

Source: Sporting Kid; Summer 2012

Accident Insurance and Baseball

Spectator injuries not covered by Little League policy

New Jersey’s Elizabeth Lloyd, is suing for more than $150,000 in damages after being hit in the face by a baseball. Although Matthew Migliaccio was only 11 years old at the time of the incident, the lawsuit filed in April claims that Migliaccio’s overthrow from the bullpen was deliberate and reckless.

Lloyd is filing suit to cover for medical costs and pain and suffering, while her husband is suing for the loss of “services, society and consortium.”

The count alleging Migliaccio’s negligence is covered by the family’s Homeowner’s policy, but the other counts are not. Little League has denied any coverage, due to their accident policy only covering staff or players; spectators are not included.

In my opinion:

Little League is correct that spectator injuries are not covered by an Accident policy. However, “Accident like” benefits for spectator injuries up to a limit of $5,000 can be covered if the General Liability policy includes premises medical payments. Otherwise, if damages are greater than $5,000, the only recourse for an injured spectator is to sue. Such lawsuits would be covered under a General Liability policy under the Each Occurrence section. This case is similar to one that one of our league clients had about ten years ago when a spectator was hit in the jaw by an overthrow ball during pre game warm-ups. It was alleged that the league and coaches were negligent in allowing the players to form two lines for warm-ups where one line was too close to an unfenced spectator area. The carrier settled the case for around $300,000 but the damages were extensive.

-John Sadler

Source: Insurance Journal, June 26, 2012