Monday, June 5, 2017

A Few Tips

Softball is a very active and physical sport. Accidents happen. I’ve had plenty of accidents, broken bones, concussions, and torn everything; from cartilage to ligaments. There are very few things we can do to prevent injury or prevent accidents. One very good way to avoid injury is stretching. When you stretch before beginning a sport, you reduce the risk of tearing a muscle, ligament, or any cartilage. Cartilage is really easy to tear, especially for a catcher or pitcher. If a pitcher is off balance, they will use their torso to correct the pitch, creating the chance of hurting themselves. When a catcher has to lunge across body, leading with their gloved hand, it is nearly impossible to not rip chest cartilage. I detached my ribs from my cartilage a few years back reaching for a wild pitch. My first basemen, a season later, ripped the cartilage in her knee because she did not stretch and warm up before the game, she has been through four surgery. We require our players to throw the ball around before the game so that they do not rip the cartilage and the rotator cuff in their shoulder. A meniscus tear is also very common if you do not stretch, run, and warm up before play time.

The most common injury in base running is a broken ankle. This generally happens when the base runner is sliding into a base. To avoid this painful situation, which i have also been through, is slide a little sooner. The second most common injury is a concussion, which i’m sure we’ve all encountered. I know i have. There’s nothing you can really do to avoid a concussion, but good batting gear and catcher’s gear is definitely a start. Gear will have to be replaced. I have cracked my batting helmet straight up the back because the pitcher had grabbed my face mask when i went to slide into home plate and slammed me back into the ground, stopping my slide short, getting me out, breaking my helmet, and knocking me unconscious. I ended up in the hospital with a concussion and a fracture in my skull. Broken wrists and fingers are also very common, these mainly occur when diving into a base, either your hand will be stepped on or jammed into the base. Dislocation of fingers and hands is also common, this is a simple fix, don't dive with straight fingers, when you dive, have your wrist at an angle so you hit the base with the palm or the heel of your hand, not your fingertips.

Conditioning definitely comes in handy when you're in a pitching or catching position. Lunges are definitely a useful exercise before jumping into either position. To get your legs in shape for the constant up and down squatting of a catcher’s position, you can try running uphill and downhill for a few miles. Maybe not all at once, but running uphill definitely helps gain muscle strength in your thoughts whereas walking or jogging downhill works on your calves, which is another muscle that is commonly used. Finally, water; and a lot of it. If you do not drink enough water your muscles will dehydrate and cramp horrendously.

Ball v Life*

In this article, multiple stories are shared about the dangers of the pitching mound. The article starts off by addressing Tori Finucane’s injury in May of 2015. On the pitcher’s mound, she had delivered the ball, a perfect strike, and was rewarded with a line drive. Natural instinct to anyone on the field, especially pitchers’, is to throw the glove up and duck when a line drive is headed your way. Line drives are quick, hard, and can be deadly. Finucane was hit just barely an inch from her left temple with a line drive when she was rendered temporarily blind and deaf. “Finucane ducked as she raised her glove in self-defense, but standing fewer than 40 feet from Perez’s”-UCLA freshman- “bat, there wasn’t enough time to avoid the bright-yellow 12-inch circumference, 6  1/2 -ounce ball. After the ball struck near her left temple, Finucane helplessly waved a shaking right hand in the direction of the Tigers’ dugout as she covered her bleeding nose with her other hand, the left side of her head throbbing from a hairline sinus fracture.” It is a terrifying thing to watch. It is even more terrifying to be that player on the ground unable to do anything but lay there and wait for help. A direct hit to the temple could be fatal to a person, regardless her injuries, Finucane was very lucky the line drive did not actually kill her.

Story number two covers Finucane’s relief pitcher, Paige Lowary. On February 27th, Lowary was hit above the corner of her left eye, another line drive, this time off the bat of Nikki Udria. Pitching  against Oregon during the Mary Nutter Classic, Lowary regretted her decision in previously telling her mother she would not wear a face mask until she got hit. Unfortunately, this came true. It is not required for any player except the catcher to wear a face mask while playing defense. Face masks often times gave the impression that the player is weak or afraid; less intimidating in some cases.

I have been hit in the face multiple times, both in and out of the pitcher’s mound. Once in left field, once at shortstop, and three times on the pitcher’s mound. The first time I was hit, I was hit in the chin. The ball hit hard enough to split the skin against the bone, which bled for a long time. The second time I was hit, I was hit on my left cheek. I had a very swollen face for quite some time. The third time I was hit, was my reality check. I was hit in the side of the head, much like Finucane’s injury, only I didn’t go deaf. I couldn’t see, and had troubles seeing for quite some time after the initial injury, I had a gnarly concussion that made it impossible for me to eat or drink without throwing up, and it left me unable to move. It is a terrifying thing to fall to the ground and not be able to pick yourself back up. I’m not really sure what happened to make my legs not work, the doctors’ aren’t either, we just decided it was the initial shock and stun from the impact. After a few minutes, I had feeling in my feet and my knees again. As you can assume, I was unable to finish my season, thankfully it was only a couple games, unfortunately, it was my closing tournament for the season. After that, my mother made sure that I had a face mask at all times. That doesn’t necessarily mean I wore it, but I had it when I needed it. I think that the leagues and the manufacturers of face masks such as Easton or CHAMPRO should work together in protecting players. If the leagues make it a requirement to have a face mask to pitch, sales will go up. Therefore, manufacturers will not have to worry so much about what they are spending to make better and more protective face masks that fit well and protect everything such as the face and the temples. This could go hand-in-hand if dealt with properly. We need to get over the stigma that face masks are a sign of weakness and realize that they could save your life. Finucane is making a recovery and pitching today.

   Paige Lowary
   Tori Finucane after hit