Sliding in to base is one of the most dangerous moves in softball. The best way to eliminate sliding injuries is to use bases designed to pop loose when they are struck too hard. These breakaway bags could eliminate up to 96 percent of sliding injuries.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.7 million injuries and $2 billion in health care costs could be avoided if breakaway bases were used.
Maybe some day all the nation's diamonds will be equipped with breakaway bags. In the meantime, you might want to learn a bit about the art and science of safe sliding. Here are several tips:
Decide to slide early. Start the slide two to three strides before you reach the base.
Before you slide, relax your body. Tense muscles limit your body's flexibility and lead to injury.
Raise your hands and arms overhead to protect them from injury. To remember this, try a Major League trick: Hold a handful of dirt in each hand and make sure not to drop the dirt until you reach the base safely.
The men, women, girls and boys of summer also get injured when hit by thrown or hit balls. Thrown balls zip at 50 to 70 mph. Batted balls can fly even faster.
Make sure that you wear a helmet when batting and base running -- even when playing slow-pitch softball.
A few other tips to increase safety on the ball field:
Before the game, take a walk around the infield and outfield to look for potholes, rocks, bottles and other dangerous debris.
If using stationary bases, make sure they are secure. A loose base that gives way when stepped on can cause injuries.
Get your bearings in the outfield, gauging the distance you can run before hitting a fence, light poles, dugouts or stands.
Drink water before you get thirsty. Promptly replacing fluids can prevent cramping, heat stroke and dehydration. The hotter it is, the more you should drink.
Avoid drinking alcohol. It hampers your body's ability to keep cool, and -- perhaps more dangerous -- it impairs judgment.