Collisions At Home Plate May Not Be Baseball Catchers' Biggest Injury Risk

A new study challenges the notion that collision injuries are the biggest threat for Major League Baseball catchers.

In baseball, violent collisions at home plate seem to be a major issue -- so much so that Major League Baseball and the league's Players Association enacted a rule last year to prevent them. (Rule 7.13 requires catchers to give base runners a clear path to home plate and forbids runners from veering off that path.)

But a provocative new study suggests that most injuries to catchers are caused not by hard-charging base runners, but by rogue bats and foul balls.

"While dramatic when they occur, the collision injuries were actually a minority of what injuries keep catchers out of the game," Dr. Edward McFarland, professor of orthopaedic and shoulder surgery at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and a co-author of the study, told The Huffington Post in an email.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the rate, type and severity of injuries suffered by MLB catchers during the 2001-2010 seasons. The injuries were recorded in the MLB Electronic Baseball Information System and confirmed by public records or news reports. 

A total of 134 injuries occurred, of which only 20 were collision injuries.

And while collision-related injuries typically required an average of 39 days off to recover, non-collision injuries, like getting hit by a ball or bat or suffering tendinitis from throwing, required an average of 59 days.

"We were a little surprised as we had the impression from the rules change that contact/collision injuries to catchers were a major cause of disability," McFarland said.

Other scientists weren't so surprised.

"Collisions, while dangerous, fortunately are not that common," said Dr. Daryl Rosenbaum, a doctor specializing in sports medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina who was not involved in the study. "These other non-collision injuries are important and they bring to light these foul balls or errant swings by batters that hit catchers."

The study was published online in The American Journal of Sports Medicine on Aug. 28.

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