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Safety & Risk Management In RBI Baseball/Softball

By: Leonard K. Lucenko, PhD
Tel: 239-992-0119
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Coaching, on the youth level such as the Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program, (RBI) sponsored by Major League Baseball, is one of the crucial elements in the conduct of safe play in baseball/softball. The coach has a significant impact on risk management and safety and must be educated and convinced to make safety a priority in team management. Unfortunately, research has indicated that approximately ninety percent of American coaches have never attended a coaching education program and have not been exposed to the study and implementation of a risk management program in the coaching and playing environment.

Coaches, including those in RBI programs, should follow the principles and rules established by the governing bodies such as USA Baseball, Little League, National Federation of State High School Associations, NCAA, Major League Baseball, and the like. These principles should be in effect during practices as well as competitive games and should be part of a continuous process of safety in the team environment.

It is well known that most injuries occurring during practice or game competition. We also know that the majority of injuries on the baseball/softball field can be prevented. RBI coaches need to be convinced of this fact so that an injury prevention approach becomes part of their coaching philosophy and methodology. Additionally, they must incorporate injury prevention into every action and reaction of their players. Unfortunately, some youth coaches are not convinced that this must be part of their program.

The increase in litigated injuries has brought to light many problems associated with coaching and team management and has resulted in demands by various public groups to educate coaches regarding sport safety and appropriate coaching methods. These lawsuits have defined the expectations of coaches on all levels. Coaches and administrators have been put on notice that they have a duty to establish and conduct a reasonable and safe experience for their players.

In the RBI and other programs, it is an expectation of parents that when their child is enrolled in the baseball/softball program, the coaches involved in the program are qualified and have the health and welfare of their child as a first priority. When this duty is violated and results in an injury to the child, lawsuits are inevitable. The best posture for coaches in avoiding injuries and litigation is to embrace the "mind set for safety" and to understand their responsibilities, and their role as "in loco parentis" supervisors and teachers.

This paper explores the injury problems which may be encountered in RBI and other programs relating to baseball/softball safety and the steps that need to be taken to improve coaching education, and eventually safety for the participants. This paper has been developed and adapted as a result of the author's appointment to the Coaches Advisory Committee, established by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for developing safety and orientation education for coaches in the State. (The power point presentation at the RBI Institute, on March 1, 2002, which was based on this paper includes photographic examples of risk management needs and also points out problems which have been exposed during litigation, as well as other research. The power point supplements the concepts and information presented in this paper.)


The New Jersey State Legislature instructed the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports to establish the standards for content and instruction for the safety and orientation program for youth and recreational coaches in order to provide the coaches with immunity from liability. A special committee of experts was established to develop the criteria. Institutions such as Montclair State University have been encouraged, by the legislation, to establish and conduct these programs. The Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Leisure Studies established the Montclair State University Coaching Academy for the training of coaches in "Safety Orientation and Training Skills Programs". The programs meet the requirements of PL 1988 c. 87 as enacted by the New Jersey Legislature to provide immunity from liability for damages in civil actions arising out of sports activities.

The major components of the safety and orientation program include the following:

1. Medical, Legal, and First Aid Aspects of Coaching

A. Every volunteer coach/manager education program shall include basic knowledge and skills in the recognition and prevention of athletic injuries and knowledge of first aid. To ensure the standards are achieved, the following topics shall be included:

  1. Legal and ethical responsibilities of the coach;
  2. Recognizing common sport injuries specific to the populations served by the sports programs;
  3. Safety plans and procedures for injury prevention;
  4. Safety issues specific to the populations serviced.

The Legal and Ethical Responsibilities of Baseball/Softball Coaches fall under this category and include a thorough understanding of risk management.


The term,"coach", places many responsibilities on the individuals acting in this role. These responsibilities have evolved from the general to the specific. Early responsibilities of the coach were limited to organization and training of the team members. Today the responsibilities have evolved to legal duties. They have been identified, prescribed, written and evaluated to include risk management and avoidance of unreasonable risk of injury to players. The coach's actions and team management have to be according to the "standard" of the reasonable and prudent coach and avoidance of negligent action which leads to avoidable injuries. This is accomplished by the recognition of the risks in the activity and implementation of avoidance strategies to prevent injuries whenever the players are under a coach's supervision.

The nature of baseball/softball requires RBI coaches to have a heightened sensitivity for the safety of the players. This includes insuring that the baseball/softball activities are conducted in proper and safe facilities and that the players have been provided with all appropriate safety equipment for the safe execution of skills and tactics. Catastrophic and less serious injuries must be prevented in the coaching environment by taking appropriate steps. Coaches cannot take a cavalier attitude and claim that because baseball/softball is a volunteer program and a young person elects to play the game, that the person assumes all responsibility for his or her safety. The "Assumption of Risk" philosophy or defense is no longer universally accepted.

This paper will address the risk management issues in coaching. The following legal duties of RBI coaches will be addressed. These duties have been established by sports safety experts, professional organizations, as well as by courts in litigation. Management and coaches have duties to provide proper and safe:

a. Supervision of players and spectators

b. Instruction in the techniques of the game

c. Facilities: Safe and appropriate

d. Equipment: All mandatory and other safety equipment

e. Warnings and Cautions

f. Competitive Matching

g. Emergency Action Plan

h. First Aid and CPR training for all coaches

i. Record Keeping


Providing proper supervision of the environment and activity is the most important duty of the RBI coach. The lack of proper supervision in the team environment is the most litigated area in all sports and recreational activities. The coach is responsible for providing general as well as specific supervision any time the coach assumes responsibility for the players. General supervision includes overall direction of the players and activities of the team. Specific supervision is employed when the coach is working with one or several players, in close proximity, and directly supervising the specific skill and technique the players are performing. (Ref. Supervision, Lucenko)

Among the important roles of the RBI coach with respect to supervision are the following:

a. Recognition that passive presence is not supervision.

b. Active presence and control of the environment and the players throughout the activity session and until players depart. Constant vigilance of all activities in the coaching environment.

c. Development, publishing and implementation of the supervisory plan.

d. Equipment and facility inspection to detect hazards and to anticipate problems.

e. Alert to developing dangerous situations and conditions.

f. Immediate intervention when necessary.

g. Use of general supervision and direct or intensive supervision throughout the session or game.


Next to supervision, this is the most litigated issue. Safe instruction requires RBI coaches to be current with knowledge of the latest techniques and rules of the game and to safely teach these new skills and tactics to their players. It is important for coaches to regularly attend workshops, symposia, and clinics to maintain and improve their knowledge and skills. Coaching certification and safety orientation programs are available through leagues, governing bodies, university programs, and service organizations and should be attended. Documentation of attendance and certification is important to substantiate knowledge and experience in case of litigation. The annual RBI Institute is an important program for all coaches to attend and receive the certification.

The instruction, coaching, or teaching process includes knowing the proper techniques and tactics and presenting them in a safe and proper pedagogical progression, and then providing feedback to the players. A recommended progression for teaching fundamental, game related or game condition aspects includes the following:

a. Proper and safe organization of the team for practice so that no player is at risk for injury. Avoid multiple activities going on at the same time without an assistant coach at each location. Provide an adequate buffer zone between groups and between permanent objects such as screens or posts. Make certain that the buffer zone will enable the player to stop prior to contact with the fence or post. Make sure appropriate padding of stationary object in proximity of play protects the player.

b. Introduction of topic and communication of importance in game and related safety aspects.

c. Correct demonstration of skill to be learned: "A picture is worth a thousand words".

d. Repeat demonstration - Solidify the proper and safe aspects of the skill.

e. Short and clear explanation. Avoid verbocity/logorrhea.

f. Provide sufficient time for practice.

g. Positive feedback, solidification, modification.

h. Teachable moment - Use the moment to make an important point.

I. Review.

Instruction also includes team safety rules and discussion so that each player understands all rules.

Position Specific Skill Training and Fitness Conditioning

It is important to develop and implement baseball/softball specific fitness conditioning. There needs to be an understanding of the conditions which lead to injuries and to condition those parts of the body to withstand the varied intensities of the game for the duration of the season. The coach should identify which positions are most "at risk" in the environment and should incorporate this specific knowledge in game fitness training.

It is the responsibility of the coach to make certain that adequate skill, tactical training, and fitness conditioning is provided to each player in each position he or she will play. Adequate instruction and practice time under supervision are imperative. Adequate practice promotes game readiness and develops confidence. A lack of functional practice develops a lack of confidence in the position and promotes indecision and potentially improper and dangerous skill execution.

As an example, proper training progression in sliding and wearing of recommended or required safety equipment constitutes an important means of minimizing the possibility of limb, body or head injury, and must be adequately addressed during each practice. Beginning players should avoid sliding altogether. Head first sliding should be very carefully addressed with advanced players. When to slide or when not to slide should be taught during practice in a controlled environment. The concepts of fundamental, game related and game condition sliding should be part of the teaching process.

Players should be instructed on other potential hazardous situations during the game and the proper evasive action to undertake.


This duty includes the use of safe equipment on safe facilities. All necessary and required protective equipment must be worn by the players. The coach must make certain that the equipment, itself, is safe and fits properly. An inspection system should be implemented to inspect the facility and to check the equipment on a regular basis.

A risk management evaluation of the facility should include bases, home plate, the infield surface, outfield, fencing, bats, and protective equipment. The spectator areas also should be inspected. A daily check is more appropriate than only a pre-season or post-season inspection. Any facility defect should be repaired and defective equipment should be replaced. Coaches should warn players not to misuse or abuse the equipment and to use it only for the purpose intended. (Example: Power Point photos, presented at the Institute, of failure to inspect the warning track, buffer zone, protrusions and a mask which became defective and caused injuries).


Facilities should be inspected daily to detect any defects. The facility defects include dangerous surfaces of the infield grass, the base paths, bases, outfields, warning tracks, wall padding and dangerous protrusions and obstructions. They also include holes, ruts, stones, rocks, improperly maintained grass areas, etc. The inspection is also very important in case practice has to be conducted indoors due to weather problems. Any defects detected should be corrected before use. (Examples of facility defects provided in the Power Point)

The following is a recommended procedure for facility risk management for all coaches:

1. Inspect for baseball facility hazards.
2. Detect the hazards.
3. Eliminate the hazards when possible.
4. Secure, rope off, remove to storage the hazards that cannot be eliminated.
5. Produce no additional hazards. (Placement of vending carts, cheerleading, or other distracting activities)

Proper baseball/softball field maintenance is one of the critical areas in the prevention of baseball/softball injuries during practices and games. The intense use of the baseball/softball field, especially during daily practice sessions, requires a comprehensive seasonal, weekly, and daily maintenance program for safe use. The coach should be part of this system in providing information to the maintenance staff following a post-practice inspection of the fields.

Facility Sharing in the Inner Cities

Due to the lack of sufficient open space in the inner cities, there is a great deal of competition for available open space. Sports seasons overlap and sport specific facilities do not completely lend themselves to safe adaptation of the facility from one sport to another. The RBI coach in such a predicament must make certain that when it is his/her team's turn to use the facility, the facility is safe in every respect. A facility specific plan must be developed and adequate assistance must be arranged to prepare the facility for baseball/softball use. Bleachers may need to be moved, screens placed in strategic locations, holes and ruts need to be addressed.

All safety issues must be planned for and must be corrected before the players are permitted to begin practice.

Buffer Zones and Surfaces

Buffer zones are open spaces between activity areas and immovable objects or other activity areas. Buffer zones should not be common for two activity areas and should not overlap. They should only provide safe open space for one activity. Each activity area should have it's own buffer zone. Buffer zones should be large enough to provide the player with the space to make a complete stop prior to any contact. A collision by a baseball player with an unpadded or closely placed metal post or other structure will result in serious and sometimes catastrophic injuries.

The power point presentation showed photographs of the lack of proper and safe buffer zones in a variety of settings as well as concrete baseball. Concrete baseball is not recommended by sports safety experts. Concrete baseball is very dangerous and will lead to serious injuries and litigation.

Indoor Practices

A pre practice inspection is very important to make certain that furniture, equipment and gear of a previous unrelated activity are removed to a safe location or distance to prevent injuries. Because of the limited space, extra care must be taken to make certain that players are not in the line of any throws. Pitching machines must be completely screened. Players must have proper indoor footwear and should not be permitted to practice without footwear. Players must not be permitted to practice in sox because of the slippage problem. Proper liaison, communication and maintenance steps will reduce potential injuries to players and spectators. (Power Point: Jim Fassel son example; padded walls; open space; proper lighting)

Netting and Fencing

There should be protective netting in front of the dugout or team bench at a proper height. Necessary use of screens during practice, includes the "L" screen for batting practice as well as screens at first base and other locations. The RBI coach should attend Major League pre game warmups and batting practice to get ideas for the protection of players.
There have been examples of spectators struck by a bat which flew out of the hands of a player. Netting and/or fencing should be installed to prevent this. (A more in-depth discussion of Netting and Fencing is included in the book, "International Symposium on Safety in Baseball/Softball", Ref. 6)

If a pitching machine is used, the ball feeder should be screened and protected.

The George Steinbrenner Rule for Dugout Screening

The Yankee owner ordered the installation of netting in front of the dugouts following a foul ball hit off bench coach Don Zimmer. Other Major League teams have followed suit by installing the safety netting. RBI coaches and administrators should follow the lead and improve the safety environment of the playing facility for their players and coaches. (Power Point shows manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemeyer at the netted dugout).

Designated "On Deck Circles"

Many injuries have been suffered by players and spectators due to indiscriminate swinging of bats which slipped out of the hands of the player. The coach should make certain that bat swinging only takes place in "on deck circles' and that these circles are located a proper distance from player or spectator seating or traffic areas. Additionally, the "on deck' area should be protected from foul balls and should be away from the dugout and home plate. The focus of the swing should be away from player and spectator areas. Helmets should be worn in the "on deck circle' area.

Safety Bases: Breakaway Bases v. Permanent Bases

Dr. David Janda has conducted and published research about the safety differences between permanent and breakaway bases. Permanent bases are also referred to as immovable bases. They will not move when a player slides into the base. Many broken legs, ankles and severely injured knees have been reported as a result of using permanent bases. The breakaway base becomes dislodged when a player slides into it and does not provide an immovable surface which would place great stress on the foot, ankle or knee, causing injuries.

The research clearly shows that there is greater safety in breakaway bases versus the permanent system. Sports safety experts recommend that safety or breakaway bases be used in youth and recreational baseball/softball. In case of litigation the RBI coach will have a better chance of prevailing if safety bases are part of the program.

Inspection Program for Bases

A regular inspection and maintenance of the base system and sliding area should be conducted before the game or when the area will be used in practice, no matter which base system is used. Check for erosion at all base areas and home plate. Fill in all holes. Cover anchor system when not in use. Where spikes are used, check to see that the spikes are not exposed or easily contacted when sliding. Many injuries have occurred when the base was kicked loose exposing the sharp metal spike. Manufacturer's guidelines should be adhered to in the installation, inspection and maintenance of the base system.

Ball Impact Injuries

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, (CPSC), in it's report, "Youth Baseball Protective Equipment Project Final Report", 1996 reported that the most common cause of injury was ball impact, which accounted for 88,700 injuries out of a total of 162,100 baseball-related emergency room treated injuries to children ages 5 to 14, in 1995.

The CPSC report also provided the following statistics regarding fatalities during the period of 1973 to 1995:

Eighty eight baseball-related deaths to children ages 5-14 were identified, an average of 4 deaths per year. Sixty eight of these deaths were due to ball impact. Thirty eight were ball impact to the chest (about 2 per year). Twenty one to the head and 9 to other areas.

The above statistics indicate that the coach must be ever vigilant in the promotion and practice of safety and risk management.

Pitching Machine or Thrown Ball Injuries

There are reports of pitching machine injuries and deaths due to young players being struck in the chest with the ball. Thus, young players should wear a chest protector when using a pitching machine. Chest protectors will protect young players from experiencing "commotio cordis" if they are violently struck with the pitched ball. "Commotio cordis" is a condition caused by a sudden blow to the chest wall caused by a baseball or other blunt object. This condition is most often observed in children and is usually lethal. The mechanism of the sudden death from "commotio cordis" is not well understood.

No RBI program player should be permitted to operate the pitching machine. Only the adult coach should do so. The rules for pitching machine use and operation should be explained to the players and should be posted.

When using the machine, make certain it is electrically grounded. Only an adult coach should feed the machine by showing the ball to the batter. The ball should be held above the machine and then should be brought slowly to the machine. The ball should not be placed into the machine unless the batter is alert and is properly dressed and addressing the pitch.

Baseball injuries are not only limited to players during practice. A coaching fatality occurred in Barron Collier High School, Naples, Florida, when an assistant coach was pitching batting practice. Although there was an L screen, the coach did not have sufficient time to duck behind the L screen to avoid a hard liner which struck him in the temple.

The above types of injuries can be prevented by focusing on the task at hand and using the protective equipment properly and safely.

Netting or Fencing to Protect Spectators from Injuries.*

1. Place the bleachers a sufficient distance from the field to prevent the ball or bat from striking people. Inspect the bleachers on a regular basis and report problems to facility management.
2. Understand what is the most dangerous area for foul balls and protect the spectators.
3. Do not design or set up snack bar and concession areas that are unprotected from foul ball line of flight.
4. Do not schedule other distracting activities in area of frequent foul ball flight. In multiple field facility, install netting or fencing to prevent striking persons playing or watching the game at other adjacent fields. Inspect and replace any netting which includes holes or rips which may not stop a ball.
5. A more in depth treatise of the issues of netting and fencing may be found in the book, "International Symposium on Safety in Baseball and Softball", (Ref. 6)

Protective Equipment

Youth coaches should be familiar with what equipment has been made mandatory by the rules of the game. Additional available safety equipment should be considered which will prevent injuries. Players should be instructed to wear safety equipment at the appropriate times during practices and games. RBI coaches should also be knowledgeable about what constitutes illegal equipment and should take appropriate steps to prevent players from wearing such equipment.

The NCAA lists the following as mandatory protective equipment:

6. A double ear-flap protective helmet for batting, on deck and running bases. Helmets must have the National Operating Committee for Safety in Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) stamp. Helmets that are cracked, split or broken shall not be worn.
7. All catchers must have a built-in or attachable throat guard on their masks.
8. All catchers are required to wear a protective helmet when fielding their position.

The National Federation of State High School Associations expands the mandatory wearing of helmets to retired runners, players/coaches in the coaches boxes as well as non-adult bat/ball shaggers. A specifically designed face mask may be attached to a particular helmet model after manufacture, provided that it is approved by the manufacturer. RBI coaches should not tamper or re-design safety equipment without the approval of the manufacturer.

The NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook outlines the coach's responsibility regarding advising the umpires about protective equipment.

The head coach or his designated representative shall certify to the umpire prior to the game that all players are equipped in compliance with NCAA (baseball/softball) rules and:
a. Have been informed what equipment is mandatory by rule and what constitutes illegal equipment;
b. Have been provided the equipment mandated by rule;
c. Have been instructed to wear and how to wear mandatory equipment during the game, and
d. Have been instructed to notify the coaching staff when equipment becomes illegal through play during the game.

The National Federation of State High School Associations also requires the head coach to verify to the umpire that the players are equipped in compliance with the above rules. Any questions regarding legality of equipment shall be resolved by the umpire. The Federation rules committee shall review any non traditional equipment before it will be permitted to be uses. New protective and safety equipment which has been developed should be considered for adoption.

RBI coaches should also consider batting helmets with face masks as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Baseball/Softball Bats

There is a controversy regarding the safety and use of the aluminum bat in some Division lll programs. The debate and research continues. The coach should know the rules of the league or conference and comply with those rules.

Eye Safety in Baseball/Softball

The coach should be aware that eye injuries are relatively frequent and sometimes catastrophic, in all sports. It is well known that eye injuries are completely preventable with the use of appropriate devices such as face masks, spectacles and goggles. (Power Point: Catcher's mask example)


This duty requires that the RBI coach provide constant warnings and cautions to team members regarding the known or inherent risks of youth baseball/softball. This must be an ongoing process, not an infrequent occurrence. Daily instructions in safety is a requirement in order to inculcate the "risk management mind set". The failure to warn of the dangers of using an improper technique can lead to injuries and litigation problems. Individual players and the entire team must be constantly reminded of unsafe action or behavior during practice or game. As an example, the on deck circle is the proper location to take practice swings in preparation for batting. Indiscriminate swinging of the bat must be stopped immediately.

It is a good idea to have a team meeting about safety rules and to distribute the list for further discussion. The list should be expanded as the need arises.


The coach usually has the responsibility of making certain that each player has met all health and physical examination requirements established by the school, league or association. The RBI coach should not coerce a player to practice until the proper medical exam has been performed and parental permission has been obtained.

Unfortunately there are examples in high school sports where coaches coerced and intimidated players into engaging in pre season conditioning work without first obtaining medical clearance. In one case, a player had developed cardiac problems which would have been detected in a physical examination. Following the practice the young man died in his sleep due to a heart attack which was brought on by the strenuous workout.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, included in the reference section of this paper, has an excellent publication dealing with health topics.

Pre-participation Examinations

A. A pre-participation exam is necessary because it provides detailed information regarding the players' current health status, physical fitness, and a history of illness, injury, or surgery. If health problems are discovered during the exam, the player will be able to secure medical care to rehabilitate the cause. If it is not possible to treat the condition, and it is hazardous, the player will be so advised and prevented from participating. The coach must not coerce or pressure a player to engage in fitness or skill drills prior to being cleared by the pre-participation exam.

B. Emergency first aid care for an injured athlete will generally fall to the coach, unless an athletic trainer is present. In most youth coaching sessions there are no trainers present. There should be a First-Aid kit at every practice and game. The coach should be trained and certified in First Aid and CPR and should develop and establish an Emergency Action Plan to provide reasonable medical assistance to injured participants as quickly as possible. An emergency action plan is included in this paper.

Post Injury Rehabilitation Return to Play

When a player has been injured and has been under the care of a physician, the parents and the physician have the final say regarding clearance for the player to return to practice and competition. Coaches should not intimidate and coerce players and parents to return before the player has been medically cleared. There are examples of players suffering serious and career ending injuries due to the haste of the coach.

Prevention of Heat Illness

Recent reports of the heat-related deaths of players has focused on the need to instruct coaches about the potential catastrophic results of heat injury in sports. The youth coach must be knowledgeable about the effects of heat on the body and to understand when to practice and play and how much hydration the players should have. The coach should never prevent players from drinking water on demand and should make certain that plenty of water is available at the practice site.

Inclement Weather and Lightning Issues

There has been a lack of consistent education of coaches, at all levels, regarding the dangers of lightning storms. Many coaches have been left to their own resources and limited knowledge in dealing with storms. Recent information has focused on educating coaches about the dangers of lightning storms which can cause catastrophic and severe physical and emotional injuries. In 1997, the NCAA has added recommendations and requirements regarding the coach's responsibilities in the event of inclement weather and lightning. Some schools and athletic conferences have established recommendations regarding lightning. The RBI coach should obtain the state of the art information and implement it into the risk management and safety plan.

The following are part of the NCAA guidelines, included in the Sports Medicine Handbook, in 1997:

1. Designate a chain of command as to who monitors threatening weather and who makes the decision to remove a team or individuals from an athletics site or event.
2. Obtain a weather report each day before a practice or event.
3. Be aware of National Weather Service-issued thunderstorm "watches" and "warnings" as well as signs of thunderstorms developing nearby.
4. Know where the closest "safe shelter" is to the field or playing area and know how long it takes to get to that safe shelter.
5. Be aware of how close lightning is occurring. The flash-to-bang method is the easiest and most convenient way to estimate how far away lightning is occurring.
6. People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge. Therefore, cardiopulmonary resuscitation is safe for the responder.

Comment: The best practice, in the event of thunder and lightning storms, is to immediately clear the field and take the players to a building until the storm passes and remain off the field for a minimum of 20 minutes interval between the last thunder or lightning bolt. Do not permit players to wait under a tree or in the dugout.


It is important for RBI coaches to keep accurate records of the events which led to an injury. Each State has passed legislation regarding the statute of limitations on litigation following an injury. Know and understand that legislation and how it will affect you in case a young child is injured. The younger the child who is injured, the longer the records should be kept. The coach should not discard the records until the child has reached the age of 18, plus two years for the possible statute of limitations. The following are some recommendations for record keeping for the defense of possible future litigation:

1. Review any safety manuals or documents provided to you by your league or RBI. Record of risk management steps taken to prevent injuries. It is a good idea to videotape your safety lecture, each year, to the players. Include parents at this session.
2. The incident report form should have an accurate description of events.
3. Indicate the conditions which led to the injury occurred. Do not admit wrong doing.
4. Do not provide a public statement, but report the incident to your supervisor as soon as the practice or game is over.
5. Obtain witness statements with complete documentation.
6. Photograph or videotape the scene and circumstances.
7. Keep complete records. Do not discard.


The following are some examples which occurred in high school baseball/softball and which can occur in youth or RBI baseball/softball. These examples resulted in injuries to players and subsequently in litigation. They need to be addressed and incorporated into ongoing coaching education, in-service training, and/or CEU programs for baseball/softball safety. The RBI coach should not engage in any of these practices.

Pre-Season Practice

It is well known that each state athletic association on the high school level has a rule about the start dates for each sport. Baseball practice is usually permitted to begin on a certain date in March. A recent controversy at a New Jersey High School clearly shows that there are coaches who are not committed to a "safety" environment and may be committed to cheating in order to get a head start.

A baseball/softball coach scheduled a pre-season practice prior to meeting the MINIMUM requirements for the first day of permissible practice as required by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association by conducting pick off throws and head first diving to first base on frozen ground. A player ripped his hand on the frozen ground and was unable to play for the rest of the season.

This disregard of an important safety protection rule for the high school baseball/softball player indicates a need for a mechanism to educate the coach regarding the legal, safety and ethical ramifications of his/her decision. Cheating and the exposure of players to dangerous conditions cost the coach his job.

Captains' Practices

Recent revelations of abuses of new and inexperienced players have brought forth a need for the baseball/softball coach to make certain that fitness and conditioning are the main considerations in the sessions. Some captains' sessions have included hazing and vicious, unexpected contact which resulted in injuries.

Although the coach may not be present during the captain's practices, the coach has given the sessions his imprimatur and is responsible for providing instructions and information pertaining to safety, as a structure for the sessions.

Mismatching and Coaching Ethics

The win at all costs mentality of some coaches is a detriment to the game and to the proper and safe conduct of a baseball/softball program. The recent age related scandal at the Little League World Championships point to potential problems when players are mismatched. Not only is the function of age, experience, size, skill problematic to the results of the competition, it is also problematic regarding the potential injuries which can be suffered in the mismatch. An older, bigger, faster pitcher can throw the ball at a speed which may not allow a younger player to react to a ball which may strike him in the chest and cause a catastrophic injury. Any physical contact between players will result in injuries to the younger, smaller, less experienced player. The RBI coach should focus on ethics and safety in the conduct of the program for the benefit of children.


The plan should be developed specifically for the team, league, and practice or game facility and include communication requirements with the local physicians, the ambulance and hospital. It is important that when an ambulance service is used, that the ambulance not leave the site of the game until the game has been completed.

The following has been adapted from National Youth Sports Safety Foundation. The Emergency Medical Plan contains critical information necessary for appropriate immediate medical assistance. This plan can be adapted to your community and facility:


1. Person designated to stay with injured athlete:
2. Arrangement for wireless telephone and person designated to call for medical assistance:
3. Person designated to meet emergency medical assistance at gate and accompany them to injured athlete (This person should have all necessary keys to gates and doors in their possession):
4. Person designated to immediately call parents and inform them of circumstances:
5. Person designated to accompany injured athlete to the hospital:
6. Person responsible for documenting all information relating to injury and emergency response:


1. Wireless telephone available at the Location:
2. Keys to all traffic areas are located at:
3. Directions to the injury location.
4. Address of the athletic facility is:
5. Entry location for the closest emergency vehicle is:
6. To access the athletic facility, emergency medical personnel must pass through gates and doors. Keys to unlock these areas are available from:
7. Phone number of emergency facility if 911 is not available:
8. The closest emergency care facility is ____ which is located at __and is __miles from the athletic facility. Average travel time is:____________________.
9. The closest Trauma I facility is _____ which is located at ____________and is __________ miles from the athletic facility. Average travel time is: ____________________.


When you call an emergency medical service (911), you should:

?E Identify yourself and your exact location.
?E Explain what happened and the type of injury (head, neck).
?E Give address of athletic facility and exact instructions on how the ambulance is to reach the injured athlete. Include street address, gate information, building location, and entry information.
?E Stay on the line until the operator disconnects the call.
?E Return to the injury scene.


Team Physician:
Ambulance Service:
Fire Department:
Police Department:
Sports Director:
Executive Director:
Athletic Director:

The Emergency Medical Plan must be developed, printed and issued to all RBI coaches and parents of the players. It should be a facility specific plan. It should be updated on a regular basis when new information is obtained. There should be review and practice or rehearsal of the plan as if an injury actually occurred.


RBI baseball/softball coaches occupy an important place in the lives of athletes. Many coaches have little formal coaching education or training. Due to the increase in injuries and litigation, the coach needs to learn the risk management philosophy and practices to reduce or eliminate dangerous conditions within the coaching environment. Organizations such as the RBI should make the important step to require coaches to take an educational program in Risk Management, Safety and Orientation based on the minimum components which need to be included in the educational model.

Risk management must be the center piece of the program. The program should provide education and training regarding all aspects of coaching responsibilities. APPENDIX

Complete Text. New Jersey State Legislation for Coaches Safety Orientation and Training Skills Program. P.L. 1988, c 87 (NJSA 2A:62A-6 et seq)




5:52. Introduction

(a) The minimum standards set forth in this subchapter identify the major topics which must be addressed in volunteer coaching/managing/officiating programs for safety orientation and training skills program required for civil immunity according to N.J.S.A. 2A: 62A-6 et seq. The topics must be presented within the context of an educational program that addresses the perspective of the specific population(s) or athletes served (for example, young, senior, disabled, novice and skilled athletes).

(b) In order to be covered by the provisions for civil immunity as prescribed by New Jersey P.L. 1988, c. 87 (N.J.S.A. 2A: 62A-6 et seq), the volunteer athletic coach, manager, or official must attend a safety orientation and skills training program of at least a three-hour duration which meets the minimum standards set forth in the subchapter. The programs may be provided by local recreation departments, non-profit organizations, and national/state sports training organizations. The standards apply to all volunteer athletic programs in New Jersey regardless of populations served.

(c) Any organization providing a safety orientation and skills training program pursuant to these rules shall issue a certificate of participation to each participant who successfully completes the program.

5:52-1.2 Medical, legal and first-aid aspects of coaching.

(a) Every volunteer coach/manager educational program shall include basic knowledge and skills in the recognition and prevention of athletic injuries and knowledge of first aid. To ensure the standards are achieved the following topics shall be included:

1. Legal and ethical responsibilities of the coach;
2. Recognizing common sports injuries specific to the populations served by the sports program;
3. Safety plans and procedures for injury prevention;
4. Safety issues specific to the population serviced;
5. Plans and procedures for emergencies; and
6. Care and treatment of injuries generally associated with athletic activities.

"5:52-1.3 Training and conditioning of athletes

(a) Every volunteer athletic coach/manager educational program shall include instruction in procedures for training and physical conditioning for participation in athletic activities appropriate for the population served. To ensure the standards are achieved, the following topics shall be included:

1. General principles of fitness and conditioning; and
2. Safety issues specific to environmental conditions in sport (for example, age, skill level, overtraining and staleness).

5:52-1.4 Psychological aspects of coaching

(a) Every volunteer athletic coach/manager educational program shall stress the importance of fostering positive social and emotional environments for all sports participants. To ensure the standards are achieved, the following topics shall be included:

1. Philosophy of coaching;
2. Psychological understanding of the individual athlete; and
3. Sportsmanship.

5:52-1.5 General coaching concepts

(a) Every volunteer athletic coach/manager educational program shall include general concepts of teaching and coaching athletic activities. To ensure the standards are achieved, the following topics shall be included:

1. Goals and objectives appropriate for the population served;
2. Teaching and coaching methods;
3. Planning and managing practices and competitions;
4. Coaching fundamental sports skills; and
5. The importance of playing rules."

5:52-1.6 General officiating concepts

(a) Every volunteer athletic official's educational program shall be designed to prepare the official to conduct a safely officiated, competitive experience based upon the rules of the game and the maturity level and proficiency of the athletes involved. To ensure the standards are achieved, the following topics shall be included:

1. Legal and ethical responsibilities of the official;
2. Safety issues under the control of the official;
3. Mechanics of officiating; and
4. Plans and procedures for medical emergencies. BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Injury. EMERGENCY PLAN. Needham, Ma.

2. National Collegiate Athletic Association. Sports Medicine Handbook. Mission, KS, 1998.

3. Lucenko, Leonard K. "Safety/Liability in Physical Education and Sport". Communique. Panzer Alumni, Montclair State University. Upper Montclair, NJ, 1994.

4. Stepp, Steve and G. Shankman. "Pre-Season Physicals Help Prevent Injuries." Sport Care and Fitness.

5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Sports Medicine: Health Care for Young Athletes. Chicago, IL.

6. Lucenko, Leonard K. "Spectator Safety Management in Baseball/Softball", in Earl F. Hoerner and Francis A. Cosgrove, eds., International Symposium on Safety in Baseball/Softball. American Society for Testing and Materials, West Conshohocken, PA., 1997.

7. National Collegiate Athletic Association. Sports Medicine Handbook, 1997.

8. Rule Books, NCAA, NFSHAA, ASA, USA Baseball, Little League.

9. Sportsplex Owners and Directors of America, "Baseball Facility Guide". Racine, WI.

10. National Federation of State High School Associations, "Handbook", Kansas City, MO., 2000.

11. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Youth Baseball Protective Equipment Project Final Report", Washington, DC, 1996.

12. Lucenko, Leonard K., "Risk Management and Safety for Baseball/Softball Coaches: The New Jersey Safety and Orientation Model", SGMA, Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Chicago, Ill., October 2001.

13. Lucenko, Leonard K., and Richard P. Tobin, Unpublished Paper Presented, "Legal Liability-How To Use Risk Management To Prevent Being Sued In Court", New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, East Brunswick, NJ, February 2001.

14. Lucenko Leonard K., Unpublished Paper Presented, "Teaching and Coaching Baseball Safely", US Army Recreation, CECOM Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ, 1995.

15. Lucenko, Leonard K. and Richard P. Tobin, Unpublished Paper Presented, "Risk Management in Sport and Recreation: Focusing on Equipment and Facilities", New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Iselin, NJ, 2000.

16. Lucenko, Leonard K., "Baseball/Softball Safety: What To Do To Avoid Being Sued", Unpublished Paper Presented, Montclair State Baseball Safety Symposium, Upper Montclair, NJ, 1997.

17. Lucenko, Leonard K., Unpublished Paper Presented, "Softball Safety", Amateur Softball Association of Pennsylvania, Chester, Pa., 1992.

18. Lucenko, Leonard K., Unpublished Paper Presented, "Risk Assessment: Baseball Facility Safety", Montclair State College, Risk Management Seminar, Upper Montclair, NJ, December, 1992.

19. Lucenko, Leonard K., and Richard P. Tobin, Unpublished Paper Presented, "Supervision: The Achilles Heel in Sport and Recreation Activities", Society for the Study of Law in Sport and Physical Activity, Tucson, Arizona, 1998.

20. Lucenko, Leonard K., Unpublished Paper Presented, "How To Conduct a Successful and Safe Sports Clinic", Regional Special Olympics Symposium, Bushkill Falls, Pa., 1979.

21. Lucenko, Leonard K., Richard P. Tobin and JoAnne Haffeman, "Key Considerations in Risk Management: The Problems With Pre-Participation Physical Exams in Interscholastic Athletics- The Needless Deaths of High School Athletes- An Abstract", Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport, Terre Haute, Indiana, Spring/Summer, 1999.

22. Lucenko, Leonard K., "Risk Management and Safety Orientation: The New Jersey Model for Coaching Certification", Unpublished Paper Presented, Society for the Study of Legal Aspects of Sport and Physical Activity, Orlando, FL., 1997.

23. Lucenko, Leonard K., M.J. Smith and Hazel Wacker, eds., "Meeting the Challenges of Urban Recreation". Montclair State College Press, Upper Montclair, N.J., 1973.

24. Lucenko, Leonard K., "Legal Aspects of Coaching: Avoid Being Sued." Eastern New York Association, New York, NY, 1990.

25. Lucenko, Leonard K., "Coaching and Risk Management" Athletic Business Conference Publications, Madison, Wis., 1995.

26. Lucenko, Leonard K., "Certifying the Coach to Promote Immunity From Liability", Athletic Business Conference Publications, Madison, Wis., 1995.

27. National Safety Council, "First Aid and CPR", Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston, MA., 1992.

Leonard K. Lucenko, PhD, Sport and Recreation Expert, is an Adjunct Professor at Montclair State. A prolific speaker, he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Risk Management in Sports and Recreation. He is a certified teacher, coach, athletic director, dean of students and international speaker on sports and recreation safety. Dr. Lucenko has qualified for Testimony and Consultation in 40 State and Federal Courts in Plaintiff and Defense cases.

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