Posted by: Bob Gorman | September 8, 2015

Fan Fatalities from Falls

The recent death of 60-year-old Gregory Murrey after falling over an upper deck railing at Turner Field has raised awareness of one of dangers of the modern large-capacity ballparks.  While fans have died from falls in the past, it’s really been in the last 50 years that there has been a spike in such fatalities.  And with good reason: today’s mega-stadiums are much larger and higher than those in earlier decades.  What follows is a list of these fatalities from 1969 to the present, including suicides.

8/5/1969 Memorial Stadium, Baltimore George Shramek, 24 Jumped from upper deck during batting practice
7/22/1971 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh Gary Pettitt, 22 Fell while jumping from one exit ramp to another
8/24/1971 Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia Glenn Shober, 37 Fell through opening where left field scoreboard was lowered when not in use
4/18/1972 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh Joseph Farrell, 17 Fell while jumping from one exit ramp to another
8/29/1979 Olympic Stadium, Montreal Michel Bergeron, 28 Climbed a glass wall and fell 10 feet into the visitor’s bullpen
7/13/1980 Shea Stadium, New York Bruce Winick, 28 Jumped from 5th mezzanine level to street below after arguing with a friend
7/19/1982 Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati Lora Schneeman, 21 Fell 35 feet from the upper deck to first row of lower level seats
6/6/1984 Candlestick Park, San Francisco Anthony Perry, 30 Fell from upper deck while yelling at the Giants as they left the field after a loss
5/1/1985 Shea Stadium, New York Mark Leddy, 21 Fell while sliding down the rail of an escalator
5/16/1986 Comiskey Park, Chicago Edward Joyce, 53 Fell while sitting on upper deck railing
4/24/1989 Shea Stadium, NY Norine Cusick, 46 Committed suicide by climbing to the top of a 120 foot foul pole and jumping while stadium was empty
4/27/1989 Royals Stadium, Kansas City Mike Wurzer, 20 Tried to do handstand while walking down aisle and flipped over upper deck railing
8/13/1991 SkyDome, Toronto Kenneth Piery, 39 Fell seven stories while jumping from ramp to ramp
8/13/1993 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh Clifford Toolerton, 75 Fell down stairs while walking to his seat
4/25/1999 Yankee Stadium, New York Francisco Munoz, 37 Fell while riding on escalator hand rail
9/17/2003 Pacific Bell Park, San Francisco Todd Adams, 35 Fell over railing 25 feet to sidewalk outside of park
7/29/2004 Miller Park, Milwaukee James Kolata, 48 Fell while riding on escalator hand rail
4/15/2008 Shea Stadium, New York Antonio Nararainsami, 36 Fell while sliding down escalator hand rail
5/21/2008 Turner Field, Atlanta Justin Hayes, 25 Fell while sliding down stair railing
5/14/2010 Miller Park, Milwaukee Stuart Springstube, 51 Fell over railing while reaching for a batted ball during batting practice. 15-foot fall resulted in his death from brain hemorrhage three weeks later
5/25/2011 Coors Field, Denver Robert Seamans, 27 Fell while sliding down stair railing
7/7/2011 Rangers Ballpark, Arlington Shannon Stone, 39 Fell over railing while attempting to catch a foul ball
8/12/2013 Turner Field Ronald Homer, 30 Fell over upper deck railing into the players parking lot; Was ruled a suicide
8/29/2015 Turner Field Gregory Murrey, 60 Fell from upper deck in the stands behind home plate
Posted by: Bob Gorman | August 3, 2015

Fan Injuries in 2015

What follows is a list of some of the serious injuries from balls and bats suffered by fans at major and minor league games during the 2015 season.  It is by no means a comprehensive list:

A man was struck over his right eye during an April 11 game at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.  The blow resulted in an inch and a half gash just above his eyebrow.

A woman standing behind home plate during an April 20 game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh was struck on the back of the head and knocked unconscious when the force of the foul ball pushed the protective netting back against her.

A boy seated near the first base-side dugout was struck on the head by a checked-swing foul ball during a game at San Francisco’s A. T. & T.  Ballpark on May 3.

A woman was struck in the face and near-fatally injured by the barrel of a broken bat during a game at Fenway Park on June 5.

A woman and a child were injured by foul balls at a New Jersey Jackals game played at Montclair State University on June 13.  Both were taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

A young boy was stuck on the upper chest near his left shoulder by a foul ball during a Philadelphia Phillies game on June 19.  He was taken to the hospital for observation.

A woman was knocked unconscious when a pop foul ball struck her on the right side of her head during a Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats game on July 4.

A single mother of two was struck in the face by a foul ball during a game at Miller Park in Milwaukee on July 6.  Surgery was required, during which two titanium plates were placed in her head.  She sustained permanent nerve damage on the left side of her head and severe injuries to her left eye.

A women was struck between the eyes by a foul ball during a game at Fenway Park on July 10.  The injury resulted in over 30 stitches.

A woman was struck on the head by a foul ball during a South Bend (IN) Cubs game on July 21.  She had to be carried from the stadium by EMS personnel and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

A 10-year-old girl was stuck in the face by a foul ball during a game at Durham (NC) Athletic Park on July 31.

A single mother of two was struck between the eyes by a foul ball during a Frisco (TX) RoughRiders minor league game on August 14.  A week after the injury, she underwent nine hours of reconstructive surgery.

A woman seated behind the home team dugout during a Detroit Tigers game on August 21 was struck on the head by a foul ball.  She was treated at the stadium first aid station before being transported to a local hospital for further treatment.

A woman seated behind the camera well along the first base side of Wrigley Field on August 21 was struck in the left side of her head by a line drive foul ball and had to be removed by stretcher and taken to a local hospital as a precaution.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 23, 2015

Infographic on Foul Balls

The Pucuda Leading Edge Blog has produced an interesting infographic on the dangers associated with foul balls.  To view it, click on the following link:

Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 6, 2015

Player Fatalities: An Historical Overview

Hundreds of players in the United States at all levels of play have died since 1862 while engaged in the National Pastime.  The numerical breakdown by cause is as follows (not including health-related causes):

Beanings288 (includes one in a major league game and 11 in minor league games)

Other pitched ball fatalities109 (includes one in a minor league game)

Thrown ball fatalities127 (includes one in a minor league game)

Bat fatalities83

Batted ball fatalities189 (includes one in a minor league game)

Collision fatalities101 (includes four in minor league games)

Weather-related fatalities80 (includes one in a minor league game)

Fatalities due to field conditions87

Violence-related fatalities48

Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 2, 2015

Fenway Park Incident

On June 5, 2015, spectator Tonya Carpenter was struck by the barrel of a broken bat while seated at field level during a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.  The bat hit her in the face, resulting in serious injuries that a first appeared to be life-threatening.  This incident once again raises the issue of fan safety and the Baseball Rule (i. e., assumption of risk).  For too long baseball has been protected by the Baseball Rule.  As a result, organized ball has done little to improve fan safety beyond placing netting behind home plate and putting warnings on the back of tickets and making pre-game announcements about the danger from balls and bats entering the stands.  For a discussion of this issue, I recommend listening to “Is Fenway Safe Enough for Fans?“, an 11-minute segment on WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | July 2, 2015

Fan Fatalities: An Historical Overview

The new edition of Death at the Ballpark will be published later this year.  It will include over 2,000 game-related fatalities among players, field personnel and spectators at all levels of play in the United States from 1862 through 2014.  The number of fatalities is more than twice as many as appeared in the first edition of the book.

I frequently get asked about the number of fans killed by various causes (excluding hearth-related deaths) while watching the game.  The numerical breakdown is as follows:

Foul ball fatalities125 (includes one at a major league game and two at minor league games)

Thrown ball fatalities46 (includes one at a major league game and one at a minor league game)

Bat fatalities48

Collision fatalities4

Violence-related fatalities77 (includes seven at major league games and five at minor league games)

Weather-related fatalities39 (includes two at major league games and seven at minor league games)

Field-related fatalities41 (includes 17 at major league games and three at minor league games)

Posted by: Bob Gorman | May 27, 2015

New Edition of Death at the Ballpark Forthcoming

The manuscript for the second edition of Death at the Ballpark has been completed and is now in the hands of the publisher.  It is a complete revision of the first edition which includes over 2,000 fatalities, more than twice as many as were listed in the first edition.  McFarland, the publisher, expects the book to be available for purchase later this year.  For more information, visit the McFarland website at

Posted by: Bob Gorman | May 27, 2015

Recent Foul Ball Studies

There are two recent studies that underscore the danger to fans from foul balls.  Gathering data from several major league parks and using a mathematical model vetted by five mathematicians and statisticians, journalist David Glovin estimates that some 1,750 fans are injured by foul balls at major league games every year.  His findings can be found on the Bloomberg website at When one factors in the number of minor league, collegiate, high school, American Legion, and other amateur games that are played each season, the danger to spectators is significant.

In a study entitled “Don’t Sit There…Or There…Or There: An Analysis of Ball Park Protection and Foul Ball Injury Risks,” published in the International Journal of Sport Management (October 2012, pp. 423-443), researchers led by Gil Fried at the University of New Haven (CT), confirmed that the field level seating areas along the first and third base lines are the most likely to have foul balls hit into them.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | August 14, 2013

Fatalities Update, 2008-present



On April 15, 2008, New York Mets’ fan Antonio Nararainsami, 36, fell to his death at Shea Stadium when he slipped off a stationary escalator handrail he was attempting to slide down.  According to police, Nararainsami was leaving the game with his daughters and a cousin about 10:00 p.m. when he fell and landed on the escalator at the loge level over 30 feet below.   He was taken to New York Hospital Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Anthony Giraudo, 18, and Taylor Buckley, 18, got into a fight outside the gates as they were leaving a San Francisco Giants game at A.T. & T. Park about 9:45 p.m. on May 9, 2008.  Buckley allegedly punched Giraudo on the side of his face, knocking him to the ground.  Giraudo’s head striking the pavement caused “traumatic brain injury.”  When the victim died after being removed from life support the next day, Buckley was arrested and charged with “involuntary manslaughter.”  Buckley is scheduled for trial in 2010.

During the 8th inning of an Atlanta Braves-New York Mets game on May 21, 2008, Justin Hayes, 25, was attempting to slide down the handrails of the club-level stairways behind the home plate area of Atlanta’s Turner Field when he slipped and fell about 50 to 60 feet, striking both the railing and the concrete field-level landing below.  He was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital where he died a short while later of head injuries.

Deshun Glover, 8, was fatally electrocuted while standing in a rain puddle near a light pole at the baseball fields in Reid Park, Tucson, Arizona, on the evening of July 25, 2008.  Initially thinking the child had been struck by lightning, an investigation later showed that he was killed by “a faulty circuit breaker” and a “ground fault” resulting from an improperly insulated splice in a steel junction box.

Playing catch before a game in Arnold, Missouri, on July 31, 2008, 13-year-old Tanner Boynton glanced away momentarily and was struck on the neck below his ear.  The blow knocked him unconscious.  A coach administered CPR before an ambulance arrived and took him to a local hospital.  He died there about 2:30 p.m. the next day.

Alberto Patino, 11, was struck on the chest by a ball during an after-school game in Compton, California, on September 12, 2008.  “He had trouble breathing and then he collapsed,” reported the assistant coroner.   The youngster had complained of chest pains shortly before the accident.  He was administered CPR before being taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.


A fight shortly after an Angels game in Anaheim on April 6, 2009, resulted in the death of Brian Powers, 27.  He was found on the fourth level of the right-field pavilion stairwell “unconscious and bleeding from the head.”  He was rushed to an area hospital where he died two days later.  According to witnesses, Powers was “fighting with another man when a third man came from behind and punched the victim’s head, causing him to fall and hit his head on a concrete step.”  Surveillance photos of the two assailants were released and the men turned themselves in for questioning.

Little League baseball coach Jacques Lee died of heart failure on a ball field in Hesperia, California, on April 9, 2009.

Harry Kalas, 73, Hall-of-Fame broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies, died from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease shortly before the start of a game in Washington Nationals ballpark on April 13, 2009.  He was found unconscious in the broadcast booth about 12:20 p.m. and was rushed to  George Washington University Medical Center where he died about an hour later.

Jonathan M. Sikora, 39, collapsed in the outfield during a game at Trevor Park in Yonkers, New York, on April 19, 2009.  Sikora, who had a history of heart problems, had run the bases just prior to taking his position on the field.  He died before reaching an area hospital.  His cardiologist later said the victim suffered from “severe heart disease.”

In a high school game in Lebanon, Missouri, 16-year-old Patrick Clegg from Waynesville High School, was struck on the back of the head just below the helmet on the evening of April 21, 2009.  The blow to the brain stem caused swelling of the brain.  He remained in a coma on a respirator until he was declared brain dead on April 23.  He was taken off the respirator the following day.

On April 28, 2009, Jeff Taylor, Sr., 48, a professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, was pitching batting practice to his son Jeff, Jr., on the school’s ball field when his son hit a line drive that struck the elder Taylor on “the lower jaw or neck.”  He fell, tried to rise, but then collapsed.  His son and an EMS crew from the university administered CPR, but the injured man was pronounced dead on arrival at Lynchburg General Hospital.

Nine-year-old Eliyahu Daddah was struck on the neck by a ball batted by his brother while the two were playing in the backyard of their home in Long Branch, New Jersey, on May 1, 2009.  His 10-year-old brother was using an aluminum bat at the time.  The local medical examiner later said the youngster died from “blunt force trauma.”

Chelal Gross-Matos, 12, and Jonathan Colson, 11, were struck by lightning while playing catch shortly after a storm-cancelled Little League game in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, on June 3, 2009.  According to witnesses, the bolt of lightning hit Gross-Matos directly then “transferred to the other boy.”  CPR was administered and both youngsters were rushed to a local hospital where Gross-Matos was pronounced dead.  Colson remained comatose for nearly a month before making a slow recovery that included relearning how to open his eyes, eat, talk, and walk.  He was finally sent home more than three months later.

A fight between two groups of men which began over seats in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park led to the beating death of David Sale, Jr., 22, in the parking lot of McFadden’s Pub on July 25, 2009.  Sale was attending a bachelor party with friends when an argument broke out with a group of men from the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.  The disagreement flared again inside McFadden’s, which is connected to the ballpark.  After the two groups were ejected from the restaurant, a brawl ensued in the adjacent parking lot.  Three assailants allegedly beat Sales to the ground.   A final kick to the victim’s neck resulted in “a tear to Sale’s left vertebral artery in the neck that caused massive bleeding into his brain and spinal column.”  One witness described the fatal blow as a “brutal kick, as if it was a football and he was attempting to punt my friend’s face.”  Sales also suffered from injuries that “caused significant internal bleeding in his liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and bowel.”  Sale died about an hour later at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital from “multiple blunt-force trauma injuries and hemorrhaging of the brain and spinal column.”  The assailant who allegedly kicked Sale “in the head and neck area at the end of the melee when he was down on his hands and knees in a barely conscious state” was charged with first-degree murder.  Two others were charged with third-degree murder and “conspiracy to commit a homicide.”

On July 29, 2009, Jeff Wood, 15, arrived for practice with the Valley High School baseball team in Orderville, UT, complaining of a side ache.  After sitting out a short while, he assumed his position in center field to shag flies.  A line drive struck him on the side, causing him to collapse on the field.  An off-duty sheriff’s deputy performed CPR within 30 seconds after the youngster collapsed.  He was rushed to Kane County Hospital in Kanab, UT, where attempts to revive him were not successful.  An autopsy did not reveal the cause of death.


Thirteen-year-old Brady Lee Frazier, St. Regis Falls, New York, died May 8, four days after a line drive struck him on the head during baseball practice at St. Regis Falls Central School.

During batting practice at Miller Park, Milwaukee, on April 25, Stuart Springstube, 51, fell over a railing while reaching for a batted ball.  The 15-foot fall to the ground below resulted in the fan’s death from a brain hemorrhage on May 14.

Andrew Cohn, 15, covering first base for his Camden County, Georgia, recreational league team during a May 15 game in Jacksonville, Florida, died shortly after colliding with a base runner.  Cohn was in the act of catching the ball when the runner crashed in to him, knocking them both to the ground.  The youngster attempted to rise, but fell back down.  When he stopped breathing, CPR was performed.  He was pronounced dead on arrival at an area hospital.

Wendy Whitehead, 39, was attending an independent United League Baseball game between the San Angelo, Texas, Colts and the Amarillo, Texas, Dillas on the evening of June 11 in San Angelo.  She and her husband were seated behind the third base dugout near the end of the protective screening.  In the bottom of the 8th inning, a Colts batter hit a line drive foul that curved around the screening and struck Whitehead in the throat.  Her husband, a vascular surgeon, attempted to resuscitate her.  She was rushed to a local hospital where she was placed on life support.  She died the following day.

Douglas Johnson, 54, from Greensburg, PA, and a friend were viewing the Cleveland Indians “wall of fame” in Gateway Plaza before an Indians game on June 12 when a 400 pound  inflatable slide being used by children in an adjacent area fell on the two of them.   Johnson, suffering from severe back pains and cuts to his arms and legs, was examined by Indians medical personnel before being taken to the Cleveland Clinic.  He was treated for several broken bones in his back, then returned to Greensburg two days later.  On June 20, Johnson suddenly collapsed at home and was rushed to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead three hours later.  An autopsy revealed that Johnson had died from a blood clot in his lung caused by the slide falling on him.

Thomas Adams, 16, was catching during practice in the gym of the Blessed Sacrament School in Paterson, NJ, on December 3 when he was struck on the chest by a pitched ball.  Although he was wearing a chest protector, the blow caused him to collapse moments after throwing the ball back to the pitcher.  According to the boy’s uncle, he stood and said, “I can’t breathe” before he collapsed.  Paramedics were unable to revive him and he was transported to the local hospital where he died.  Cause of death was speculated to be commotio cordis.


Robert Seamans, 27, died on May 25, a day after he fell and struck his head while sliding down a staircase railing in the outfield seating area of Coors Field known as the Rockpile.

During a Little League game in Winslow, AZ, on May 31, 13-year-old Hayden Walton was struck over the heart by a foul tip off his bat during a bunt attempt. According to one witness, “he took an inside pitch right in the chest.  After that he took two steps to first base and collapsed.”  He was rushed to a local hospital, but died the next day.

Just after completing his first practice with the Seacoast Mavericks of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League in Rochester, NH, on June 6, Adam Keenan, 20, suddenly went into cardiac arrest and collapsed.  CPR was performed and he was rushed to an area hospital, but attempts to revive him failed.  An autopsy revealed that the young man had an enlarged heart.

Austin Earl Bowman, 13, was at bat during a Babe Ruth League game in Gillette, WY, on the evening of June 7 when an errant pitch struck him on the left side of his batting helmet near the temple.  He was air-lifted to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, but died of a subdural hematoma on June 8, twelve hours after the beaning.

Shortly after an American Legion game in Helena, MT, on June 16, the Rev. Wayne A. Fisher, 78, leaned against a protective net that was not attached at the bottom and fell face-first nearly nine feet onto the dugout steps below.  He was unconscious for several minutes, but regained consciousness before being taken to an area hospital.  He was later airlifted to a hospital in Great Falls, where he died on June 28 from injuries sustained in the fall.

During the second inning of a Texas Rangers game in Arlington on the evening of July 7, fan Shannon Stone, 39, fell over the railing in the left field lower reserve seating area while attempting to catch a ball tossed into the stands by Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton.  Stone fell headfirst through the gap between the seats and the outfield wall, landing on the ground about 20 feet below.  Although conscious when first reached by emergency personnel, Stone died on the way to the hospital.

On October 5, 2011, Gregory Green, 17, was pitching batting practice to a teammate at Ribault High School in Jacksonville, FL, when a line drive ricocheted off the metal frame of the protective screening and struck Green on the head as he was ducking to get out of the way.  He was rushed to a local hospital where he died on October 9, three days after the accident.

University of Rhode Island pitcher, Joseph Ciancola, 20, collapsed suddenly after a pre-season workout.  He was rushed to an area hospital where he died three days later.  An autopsy performed the following week was inconclusive as to cause of death.   Team officials said that Ciancola did not appear to be ill at any time during the workout.


On August 16, 2012, an unidentified male fan collapsed during the bottom of the seventh inning of a Chicago White Sox -Toronto Blue Jays game in Toronto.  The game was halted for several minutes while the fan was given CPR and taken from the Rogers Centre to an area hospital.  Police announced after the game that the fan had died in the hospital of suspected cardiac arrest.

On June 3, 2012, East Carolina University fan Lazarus King “Kay” Stallings III, 68, was struck in the face by a line drive foul as he sat in the stands along the first base side of Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC, during an NCAA regional playoff game between the University of North Carolina and St. John’s University.  Stallings lost his right eye and was hospitalized of and on during the summer, but appeared to be recovering when in early September he was readmitted to the University of North Carolina Hospitals.  He died September 13 of a brain aneurysm resulting from the initial injury.


Maureen Oleskiewicz, 28, and her brother Martin were eating hot dogs in Wrigley Field’s  right field bleachers shortly before the start of a Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game on May 5, 2013, when she suddenly fell to the ground without any indication she was in distress.  When emergency medical personnel were unable to revive her, she was rushed to an area hospital.  She was kept alive until the morning of May 7 so that her organs could be donated.  An autopsy by the Cook County medical examiner’s office revealed that she died from a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by choking on a hot dog.  Alcohol consumption was determined to be a contributing factor.

Eight-year-old Dylan Williams was injured on July 16, 2013, when a thrown ball struck the youngster on the right side of his head and neck during practice in Union City, IN.  He was rushed to a local hospital before being transferred to one in Indianapolis.  He died on July 17 from “blunt force trauma.”

Just before the start of an Atlanta Braves-Philadelphia Phillies game on the night of August 12, 2013, Ronald Homer, 30, fell over the 42-inch high upper deck railing at Turner Field 85 feet to the players’ parking lot below.  The unconscious man was rushed to an area hospital where he died from blunt force trauma shortly after arriving.


Alex Newsome, 11, was pitching batting practice at his middle school in Wilmington, NC, on the afternoon of April 11, 2014, when a line drive struck him on the head.   Although the young left-hander was pitching behind a protective screen, his delivery caused him to lean outside the netting.  CPR was performed on the youngster until an ambulance arrived.  He was transported to an area hospital where he died a little after 9:00 p.m. that evening.


Zacharie Schaubhut, 15, was pitching during a game in Bemidji, MN, on May 24, 2015, when he was struck by a batted ball.  The youngster was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to a hospital in Fargo, ND.  He passed away later that same day.

Ten-year-old Lane Rodgers was one among a group of youngsters playing in a 76-team baseball tournament in Tupelo, MS, on June 13, 2015, when heavy storms struck the area.  As he and others ran for the safety of a nearby concession stand, a large limb fell and struck him on the back of his head just as he was passing under a tree.  One of the parents who was a physician administered CPR until paramedics arrived and took the child to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Kaiser Carlile, 9, bat boy for the Liberal (KS) Bee Jays, an amateur team playing in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, KS, was struck on the head by a bat swung in practice during a game on August 1, 2015.  Although the child was wearing a batting helmet, the blow resulted in his death the following day.

Sixty-year-old Gregory Murrey tumbled from the upper deck at Turner Field during the seventh inning of an Atlanta Braves game against the New York Yankees on August 29, 2015.  Murray, who fell some 40 feet into the seating area behind home plate, was administered CPR before he was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Posted by: Bob Gorman | August 8, 2011

Safety Equipment for Children

The commtio cordis death of a Little League batter on May 31, 2011, prompted a comment from a reader of this blog about the effectiveness of safety equipment for children.  First, let me say up front that I am not a physician. What knowledge I have about the issue of baseball safety has come from the readings I have done in my research on baseball-related fatalities. Therefore, my opinions are those of an informed layperson, not a medical expert.

There are a number of recent studies on the issue of safety baseballs and chest protectors and the prevention or decrease in incidents of commotio cordis. A 2001 study of safety baseballs published in the May 2002 issue of the journal Pediatrics (“Reduced Risk of Sudden Death from Chest Wall Blows (Commotio Cordis) with Safety Baseballs,” Mark S. Link, et al, pp. 873-877) concluded that “safety baseballs reduced (but did not abolish) the risk of sudden cardiac death. More universal use of these safety baseballs may decrease the risk of sudden death on the playing field for young athletes.” (This study, I might add, was based on an animal model using young pigs, not a human one.)

Similarly, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concerning safety baseballs and faceguards (“Evaluation of Safety Baseballs and Faceguards for Prevention of Injuries in Youth Baseball,” Stephen W. Marshall, et. al, February 5, 2003, pp. 568-574) concluded that “Reduced-impact balls and faceguards were associated with a reduced risk of injury in youth baseball. These findings support increased usage of these items; however, it should be noted that the absolute incidence of injury in youth baseball is low and that these equipment items do not prevent all injuries.”

The news on chest protectors has been much less encouraging. A study of commercially-available chest protectors reported in The American Journal of Cardiology (Joseph J. Doerer, et. al, March 15, 2007, pp. 857-859) found “that almost 40% of commotio cordis deaths in young competitive athletes occurred in the presence of chest barriers”,” concluding that this fact “raises the critical consideration of whether chest protectors that effectively abolish the risk for commotio cordis can be manufactured. Improvements in the design and composition of chest protectors are necessary to enhance the safety of the athletic field for our youth.”

Finally, commotio cordis fatalities are not just a baseball problem. Other sports, including football, hockey, and lacrosse, have had their share of commotio cordis deaths as well. And while it is an event that happens mainly to children under 18, adult fatalities from blows to the heart have also occurred.

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