An analysis of injury reports at a sampling of first-aid stations yields an estimate from Bloomberg that 1,750 fans are injured by balls hit into the stands at Major League Baseball games in a season.
There are a host of horror stories in the Bloomberg article about fans seriously hurt when struck by a foul ball. And there are probably more things MLB teams could do to prevent injury, like extending netting past the dugouts. From the article:
Baseball “has its head in the sand,” said Robert Gorman, co-author of 2008’s “Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities” since 1862. “If they learn there’s a problem, they’ll have to address it.”
While Major League Baseball is very concerned with fan safety, “there is no epidemic of foul ball damage yet that would warrant some sort of edict or action by the commissioner’s office,” said John McHale, the MLB executive vice president who oversees ballpark security….
While the typical injury is minor, like a bruised hand or a bloodied lip, a small number are more serious, and those victims tend to be children.
So, is the issue enhancing protections (like extended netting) or advising parents to bring their kid to a section where they are less likely to be struck by a foul ball? Not entirely sure, because the analysis covers fans “hurt” by a ball in the stands, and that’s not actually defined.
This is a situation, however, where MLB could be a leader. MLB tracks every sort of statistic imaginable, and we can’t imagine they don’t track where foul balls land. Add in some data as to the perceived speed of the foul ball (distinguishing between a liner past the dugout and a pop down the left-field line), and figure out exactly how often potentially serious injuries happen. This Bloomberg study, while interesting, is worthless in setting any sort of action.
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