Sliding headfirst into first base increases risk of hand, wrist and thumb injuries

2014-11-28 12:03:04 by Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine, as posted on the blog.


Major league baseball players who slide headfirst into first base are setting a bad example for today's youth.

Not only is sliding headfirst slower than just running through the base, it also puts kids at a higher risk of injuries to their hands, wrists and thumbs. Yesterday I spoke with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.

HORNER: We're going to bring in our good friend Dr. Joe Congeni from the Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children's Hospital (who's) with us on this Wednesday. He makes time out of his really busy schedule to join us each week.

Joe, what do you have on your list this morning?

DR. CONGENI: Well, Ray, I know you do this already so I'm talking to other youth baseball coaches out there.

An injury that kind of popped up in the last week or 2 in the major leagues is related to sliding headfirst into first base.

I know that you teach that's not the correct thing to do in baseball. There are 2 reasons why.

Dr. Joe Congeni Dr. Joe Congeni

No. 1, it's not as fast as running through the base. It's been proven over and over through the years that you're slower if you dive headfirst into first base. Yet, here we have major league players who still do it.

The second reason is because it has a high risk for injury. The most common injuries are hand, wrist and thumb injuries.

Last week we had an example of 2 of the best players in the game with significant thumb injuries. The reason is there's a big ligament on the base of the thumb.

What happens when they dive into base and try to hook their hand into the base to beat the throw is they often will stretch or tear that ligament. It's (the tear) down at the base of the thumb at the webbing of the base of the thumb. It's called the ulnar collateral ligament. That ligament, if it stretches and tears, can have people out of the lineup for a while.

A grade 1 (injury) is when you stretch it. A grade 2 is when you partially tear it like Yasiel Puig (did). When Puig, from the Dodgers, stretched and had a partial tear he missed a week or so of action. The Dodgers weren't happy he was out of the lineup.

If you tear the ligament all the way (grade 3), like Josh Hamilton, you can be out for 6 to 8 weeks. That's a long time on the DL just for trying to dive into first base and tearing this ligament.

It sometimes heals with bracing, sometimes it even needs surgery. It's really a big deal in baseball. There are 2 of baseball's biggest names -- Josh Hamilton and Yasiel Puig -- who missed time because they did something that's taught even at the youth levels of baseball -- not to try to dive into first base headfirst.

HORNER: I don't understand it, that's for sure. I agree with you. That starts right down in little league. I don't know too many coaches who will say dive into first base.

Joe, as always, thanks for the time my friend.

DR. CONGENI: Ray, I have one more thing I want to add to that real quickly if I could.

You know how I love the history of medicine? This ligament has a history in Cleveland sports.

I know that you and I have talked about it once a long time ago. One of the worst injuries that occurred in a playoff run for the Cleveland Cavaliers (was) to this really big guy by the name of Shaquille O'Neal. He came in to win a ring for the king. Do you remember that?

In the year 2010 Shaquille O'Neal had an injury where Big Baby blocked one of his shots, stretched that ligament and tore it in February.

He had to have surgery on that ligament and Shaq was never the same through the playoffs. We didn't win a ring for the King and you know what happened after that.

So ulnar collateral ligament (injuries) occur in baseball and basketball, but definitely something you can do to prevent it is teach your young kids not to slide headfirst into first base.

HORNER: Agreed. Thanks Joe, appreciate it.

DR. CONGENI: Have a great week Ray.

HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children's Hospital.

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