Athlete Safety in Athletic Facility Planning: Essential Considerations

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BROC U Issue #3: Pitcher Safety in Baseball Moving Into High School Play

In recent years, more focus has been placed on mandating rules in athletics played across the United States. One that BROC has consistently run across is in the game of baseball. Specifically, focused efforts are placed on pitching and the health and safety of the athlete.

As we see a common occurrence in pitchers entering more competitive play, in collegiate and professional levels, pitch count is of the highest concern where careful attention is paid. In recent history, this has lacked at a more amateur level, high school where the play is still competitive and consistently wearing on the athletes specific to pitchers. The rule according to National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS News) originally placed limitations on the pitcher for inning appearances which still allowed for significant overuse of the pitcher and putting them at risk in the long term.

Rule 6-2-6 Mandates Some Changes that Immediately Impact Facility Planning

After meetings around the subject, NFHS in partnership with NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, made a rule change (Rule 6-2-6) that mandated each state to place a pitch count limit on the athletes. Although, some states made more extreme limitations than others, according to Baseball America, of the states in the US where high school baseball is a sanctioned sport, only two states did not place limitations on their pitchers by pitch count to date (only four states do not have baseball as a high school sanctioned sport). The new rule change had a stipulation that this limitation had to be planned for each state by the 2017 season (this past year). As a result, this has forced baseball programs across America to adjust to the rule and more strictly record and display pitch counts during competition. Many programs are scrambling to find ways display the counter and strictly maintain this record to keep it at the forefront of thinking when deciding who and how to play with primary concern for the athletes’ safety.

Athlete Safety is Becoming More Prevalent at All Levels of Play – Safety is a Team Effort

Today, BROC continues to work with baseball programs and high school facilities’ teams to determine the best way to attack this challenge. There are tools and temporary fixes that continue to be implemented, whether through portable pitch counters to be displayed on the field, retrofitting scoreboards for pitch count display capability or making the investment to upgrade scoreboards to fully integrate the system to display pitches and better manage athlete play; all are being vetted and weighed to better manage this change in rules. Regardless the approach, many programs and BROC have been making strides toward aligning to this new rule. It has been shown in NFHS’s annual high school athletics participation survey that this sport only continues to grow in active participants, up nearly 6,500 from 2016 to 2017. If we want it to continue trending this way and giving student athletes avenues for growth, then this will need to continue to be an effort made toward ensuring safety in yet another sport where sports injury and health becomes a topic of concern. Contact our office if you want to learn more about the impact of rule changes to facilities planning and design and how others have been able to work with the changes.

– Published by BROC U Coordinator

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