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Safety Tips: Fastpitch Softball

Just about anyone can play slow-pitch softball; that's why it's so popular. But if you want something more challenging, try fastpitch softball. It's harder to play and the action is much faster.

Why Is Fastpitch Softball Safety Important?

Softball is a very safe sport, especially slow-pitch. But things speed up in fastpitch, and that increases the likelihood of injuries. Players can be hurt in on-field collisions or from getting hit by a pitch or a batted ball.

Some high school pitchers can hurl fastballs at more than 60 miles per hour — speedy enough to cause painful welts and even concussions. In addition, pitching too much or throwing the wrong way can lead to serious arm problems, and base runners and fielders can collide while running at full speed.

Gear Guidelines

As with most sports, using the right gear can go a long way toward preventing injuries in fastpitch softball. The amount of equipment needed for softball is less than what's needed for football or hockey, but it's every bit as important.

Most leagues have these requirements:


Breakaway Bases

Base paths are one of the most common places for injuries to happen. This is especially true when players slide into traditional stationary (fixed) bases, which put unmovable obstacles in their way as they slide. Sliding into fixed bases can result in foot, ankle, and lower-leg injuries.

That's why most leagues require breakaway bases. These bases, which snap onto grommets on anchored rubber mats, pop out of the ground when base runners slide into them, lessening the chance of injury. During normal base-running, breakaway bases are stable and don't detach.

Before You Start the Game

Try to get plenty of exercise before the season begins so you can be in the best shape possible before your first practice swing. This will lower your risk of injury and make you a better ballplayer.

Be sure to warm up and stretch before a fastpitch game as you would for any other sport. Remember to pay particular attention to your throwing arm. Players' arms need plenty of warm-up before they can safely attempt a long, hard throw.

Different players have different preferences when it comes to warming up their arms. Some like to make short throws, while others prefer to start with longer, easy tosses. Regardless of how you choose to warm up your arm, the idea is to start with soft throws meant to stretch your muscles and loosen your joints. As your arm warms up, gradually increase the intensity of your throws until you're throwing as hard as you would in a game situation.

Make sure that all bats, balls, and other equipment used during warm-ups and practice are safely put away before play begins, and always check the playing field for holes and debris, especially broken glass.

During Game Play

When you're in the field, you're going to go full speed after every ball hit your way. The problem is that so might some of your teammates. With your attention focused on the ball, it's easy to lose track of where other players are, so painful collisions can happen.

If there's any doubt as to who should field a ball, one player should call for it as loudly as possible to let other players know to stay away. Practice doing this with your teammates so you get used to listening for each other's voices.

If you've ever been hit by a softball, you know they're not soft. Getting hit with a ball in fastpitch hurts. To minimize injury when a pitch is about to hit you, duck down and turn away from the pitcher, exposing your back and rear end to the pitch instead of your face and midsection.

On the base paths, practice running the bases with your head up, looking out for other players and the batted ball.

Make sure to learn how to slide correctly, too. Many leagues make it illegal for players to slide headfirst because it increases the risk of head and face injuries.

Pitching Limits

Pitching puts an enormous amount of strain on joints and tendons. Although the softball windmill pitching motion is less stressful on shoulders and elbows than baseball overhead throwing, doing a lot of pitching can lead to overuse injuries.

To protect your arm, don't throw when you're tired, and follow pitch count guidelines. These are general guidelines for tournament play:

A Few Other Reminders

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2015

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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