The Risks Of Ankle And Knee Injuries When Using Metal Cleats On Poorly Maintained Fields

Guest post by Shana Brenner, Marketing Director of CoverSports

According to recent reports, injuries to teenage athletes across all sports are on the rise. In particular, there has been a significant increase in knee injuries among teen athletes, specifically ACL tears, and females under the age of 18 are believed to be at a higher risk than their male counterparts. While softball might not seem like an inherently dangerous sport, knee and ankle injuries are common and account for the majority of injuries requiring time away from the sport.Field photo

The good news (and bad news) is that many of these knee and ankle injuries in softball are unnecessary and could easily be avoided if fields were maintained properly. That’s right — often times, the biggest hazard in softball is the field itself.

How can a poorly maintained softball field lead to knee and ankle injuries when using metal cleats?

For proper performance, athletes require a smooth, resilient playing surface that affords them sure footing and the right amount of friction between their metal cleats and the ground. As you might imagine, stepping into a rut or hole while running full speed during a game or practice is an easy way to roll an ankle or twist a knee. Likewise, if an athlete is trying to plant her foot to make a throw but the surface isn’t sturdy, her foot could go one way while her body goes another, causing joint tension, which could lead to a serious knee or ankle injury.

Proper Maintenance Can Prevent Field-Induced Injuries

Without a doubt, the top priority for field-maintenance crews is player safety. A well-maintained field can help athletes stay safe while also improving the overall quality of the game.

With that in mind, there are some important areas to focus on when maintaining your softball field to create a safe playing environment.

  • Regular mowing — Throughout the year, you should keep the grass on your field cut so that it doesn’t overgrow around the edges and harm the field’s performance. Not only does regular mowing preserve the integrity of the playing surface, but it can also help you identify any issues, like holes or uneven surfaces, that might be obscured if the grass was too long.
  • Replacing top dressing — Over time, top dressing deteriorates. It’s unavoidable. This happens because of a combination of things, like wear and tear from on-the-field play, weather and poor maintenance. Top dressing needs to be refinished and leveled occasionally to maintain a safe, healthy playing surface.
  • Dragging and raking — Dragging and raking the field helps create a smooth, uniform surface. Doing these things regularly helps fill in any ruts, holes and eroded areas, making the field much safer for play. You could even use a roller after dragging the field for optimal results.
  • Lip maintenance — The lip is a hump on the field that forms where the grass and dirt meet. An unmaintained lip can cause ground balls to take nasty, unpredictable hops that can put fielders in serious danger. A power washer or hose is a great tool for knocking down the lip on your field, provided it’s not too large.
  • Mound maintenance — The pitcher’s mound is one of the areas exposed to the greatest wear and tear. During every game and practice, the pitcher’s mound gets damaged from routine use. The pitcher needs a smooth, resilient surface where she can plant her foot to make her throws. If the mound has any ruts or wear, the pitcher could easily hurt her ankle or knee when planting or attempting to field a ball. Regular mound maintenance can keep athletes safe and even reduce the costs of renovating this heavily trafficked area. Here are some simple tips to properly maintain your pitcher’s mound:
    • Sweep away any debris from the mound, particularly the landing area in front of the rubber.
    • Tamp uneven clay before watering.
    • Use a small roller to smooth the mound area.
    • Lightly water the clay to create a stronger bond between new packing clay and existing clay.
    • Add new clay to damaged areas. Tamp into ground.
    • Water the entire mound thoroughly. Let dry.
    • Place a mound cover over the area until its next use.
  • Batter’s box maintenance — As batters dig in throughout practices and games, the batter’s box degrades and can develop severe wear and tear. Adding mound clay and infield mix to fill in holes and create a level surface should be a regular part of field-maintenance duties. Make sure to rake down newly repaired areas to create an even surface.

Proper field maintenance can go a long way to keeping softball players safe from minor and major knee and ankle injuries, especially when wearing metal cleats. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Shana Brenner is the Marketing Director of CoverSports, an American manufacturer of baseball field tarps and protection with roots tracing back to 1874. 

 

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on February 10, 2015, in Health/safety and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. A very interesting article. My 17yr old daughter started using metal cleats in the spring of 2015. In June she tore her ACL while turning hard to get back to 1st base. The filed was in poor condition due to recent rain and a drying compound was used to help soak up the rain. Watching her go through this and not being able to play makes me wonder if the metal cleats are really worth it. Just my 2 cents.

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  2. Sorry to hear that, John. That’s the big risk – poorly maintained fields. Hope your daughter has had a good recovery and is ready to play again. Or did she lose her last year of playing?

    I think sometimes these decisions are made by people who sit at the top, with no regard for what it’s like in areas that are financially stressed, or areas where they just don’t take girls fastpitch softball very seriously. I’d love to see some stats on whether injuries increased (and if so by how much) since they went to metal cleats.

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