Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Being a Fan is Dangerous

A 3-year-old girl had her skill fractured by a line drive during batting practice at Dodger Stadium yesterday. She was due for surgery today. Baseball seems somewhat unique of the 4 major North American sports in terms of it's potential for fan injury. A slow moving game rife with opportunities to not pay attention combined with the propensity for sudden line drives and broken bats can be deadly.

Or one would think. Robert Gorman and David Weeks wrote a book called Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities of Players, Other Personnel and Spectators in Amateur and Professional Baseball, 1862-2007. I have not read this book, but someone at Slate did, and in their review they mention that in the history of Major League Baseball, only one fan has died as the result of being struck by a bat or a ball. It was a 14-year-old boy hit by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium in 1970.

So I guess wear your hard hat at Dodger Stadium.

Are any of the other major sports more dangerous for spectators? Automobile racing would be hands-down the most dangerous for fans and drivers alike, but I'm not counting it because it's in a class on it's own.

Near as I can tell, neither the NBA nor the NFL have had a spectator die as the result of a ball or player entering the crowd. That's not surprising. Basketballs and footballs rarely reach 100 mph speeds.

Of course the most obvious contender for the title would be hockey, except they've got all that tall glass around the ice to stop the pucks. That safety measure serves them well, as the NHL ends up in a tie with MLB for game-play-caused spectator deaths. Hockey's tragedy was far more recent, however. In 2002, a 14-year-old girl was struck on the temple by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game in Ohio. As a result, extra netting has been installed at all NHL hockey rinks to help prevent it from happening again.

So I guess if you're 14, don't go to hockey or baseball games.

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