Saturday, March 12, 2011

If Sliding Head First Were Faster, World-Class Sprinters Would Dive Across the Finish Line!

The 2011 baseball season started with tragedy at Arizona State University. While sliding head-first into second base during an attempted steal, freshman player Cory Hahn collided with the knee of the fielder and suffered a fractured neck and is reportedly paralyzed.

Though there are injury risks with feet-first sliding, it is commonly believed that the more devastating injuries are associated with head-first slides (i.e. cervical spine injuries, shoulder dislocations, and other elbow, wrist, and hand trauma). Yet, coaches continue to teach, and players continue to attempt head-first sliding because they believe it is a faster baserunning technique.

The truth…IT’S NOT. A 2002 study proved once and for all that at all levels, there is no difference in speed between head-first and feet-first sliding. The authors concluded that in fact, feet-first sliding may even be slightly faster.

Kane SM, House HO, Overgaard KA. Head-first versus feet-first sliding: A comparison of speed from base to base. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2002; 30(6): 834-836.

As I mentioned, there is injury potential to the lower body with the feet-first technique (i.e. ankles, knees, hips, and hands), but these are not considered to be in the same class of severity as those associated with the head-first method. It can be argued that when the feet-first slide is taught correctly and practiced, the potential for injury is low – particularly now with breakaway bases, etc.


David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

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