In his article for Bloomberg News last year, David Glovin reported that Bloomberg’s calculated that there are about 1750 reported fan injuries related to foul balls going into the stands at MLB games each season. I don’t dispute the numbers, but I am concerned, as you should be, about how many have misunderstood the context of these injuries, even now a year later. It seems, from the vast number of comments on various sites that shared or addressed this article, that many people accepted that number to mean “serious injuries.” But that interpretation is incorrect; the language used is deliberate, yet many seem to have missed it. Regardless of how fans interpreted the number, the topic of fan injuries from foul balls is something we need to delve into with more assertiveness.
There’s no disputing the fact that foul balls and errant bats are dangerous. I’ve touched on in previous posts about the dangers and have posted a number of lawsuits and other data that illustrates this point…plus it’s common sense. What we don’t know as accurately as we need to are the number of serious injuries from these projectiles.
The number given in the Bloomberg News piece cites ALL injuries reported to the teams that offered the information. ALL injuries. That’s important to remember.
We’ve all seen the clips on SportsCenter or plastered on Instagram or YouTube, those people who end up in a scrum for a foul ball. This is the first thing that needs to be considered when we talk about the number of foul ball related injuries. The 1750 estimation covers all injuries reported to the first aid stations in those parks. ALL injuries.
This means if I get in a scrum and come out with an injured wrist and I elbowed some old lady in the ol’ kisser going for it and she fell over the seats and tripped up a kid who scraped his knee and jostles a guy with a tray of beers coming down the aisle steps who then stumbles flips over the railing and spills his beer into the eyes of a couple on their first date, and we all report our individual injuries, then we have one foul ball accounting for 5-6 injuries.
Context is everything. This is something I try to drill into the heads of my students. Context. It’s easy to forget context when we see big numbers like these. This is because we get emotionally charged with big numbers, especially when kids are involved. It’s the human thing to do. But we have to sit back and look at what was said and very clear in the article: all injuries reported. That’s the key wording.
Are foul balls dangerous? Absolutely. Are a lot of fans seriously injured from being hit by one? Significantly fewer than 1750. For the sake of argument, since we can’t know a more accurate number at this time (but I am working on it!), let’s assume there are 200 of these reported injuries serious enough to warrant immediate evacuation and hospital interment. Of these 200 serious injuries (remember, we are talking about MLB injuries only), we need to break it down to how many are a result of a foul ball directly hitting them. That number drops significantly I imagine. From the very limited data we have, it appears that that number may drop down to a mere 1 in every 500 games or so (again, the data is so limited that we have to extrapolate from what we do have and hope we are close to the truth). Considering there are around 70 games a week, that leaves a serious, hospital worthy injury at one every 14 weeks or so. This brings us to a total of about 4-5 serious hospitalizations a season.
Are they all kids? Some people seem to think so. That’s because the media publicizes the injuries to children with more vigor than those of older people. It makes sense from a media perspective; which makes better news? An 8-year-old or a 38-year-old in the hospital as a result of a foul ball injury. The answer is obvious. And because we see so many child injuries publicized, many of us start assuming that the overwhelming number of serious foul ball related injuries happen to kids. But they don’t.
Regrettably, the data is significantly limited. It was mostly for this reason I started FoulBallz.com; I wanted a warehouse for all information for foul balls. But in my hunt, I have realized that the data isn’t readily available, that the few of us who take foul balls seriously must do significant extrapolations in order to get a hint of what may be. This is exactly from where the 1750 injuries came. This initial data is excellent. It helps all of us understand foul balls a little bit better, but we must remember to contextualize the data. 1750 injuries due to foul balls doesn’t mean they are all life threatening; and it’s rather unfortunate that so many chose to not read the expertly extrapolated data within context it was written.
The only reason we are getting so many people bent out of shape by foul ball injuries and so many calling for intrusive netting is because we hear about kids being hit. But as I suggested in previous posts, and as many others recommend, fans must pay attention. It is that simple. If you don’t pay attention and you sue a team, you’ll get a crash course in learning about a term called “contributory negligence.”
You’ll note that fans interviewed for the article who’ve been hit or have had a loved one hit by a foul have admit that they looked away momentarily, maybe even at their phone.
Like Smoky the Bear would say if he was referring to baseball: Only YOU can prevent serious foul ball injuries!