Whether it’s trying to beat a throw, attempting to steal a base, score a run or break up a double play, sliding is a fundamental part of baseball.Depending on the situation, sliding can cause injuries to a variety of body parts. It is important for baseball players to be trained to slide safely and effectively. As a base runner, you can slide headfirst or feet-first into a base. Here’s how to manage injuries in both situations.
The risks to headfirst slides involve injuries to fingers, wrists or elbows due to sliding into a fixed base. Sliding past the base -- also known as a drag slide -- may increase the likelihood of injuring your elbow. Keeping your fingers extended when sliding into the bag can increase the risk for finger dislocation. Try to minimize the chance for injury by sliding fist-first not fingers-first.
You may notice professional baseball players holding their batting gloves in their hands while running so that their fingers are closed as fists and are protected. Runners can also try to slide away from the base (also known as a loop slide) to avoid head-on contact with the bag and infielder.
The risks of feet-first slides involve possible injuries to ankles, including sprains and breaks, ACL and MCL tears, and ankle and tibia fractures. Situations that can aggravate this risk are when players return to standing immediately after sliding feet-first, or pop up slides.
Injuries from feet-first slides can be prevented by trying to slide past the bag with your feet while your body is still down and using your hand to tag the base.
A common abrasion that occurs with slides is road rash. Wear long sleeves and long pants to help prevent skin scrapes. If you do get road rash, you can treat with powder, protective adhesives and wrap with gauze.
Baseball is rarely thought of as a violent sport, however players must remember that slides can cause injuries and proper sliding technique can help protect all involved.
Dr. Anil Ranawat is a sports medicine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Paramus and the hospital’s main campus in New York.