Wood & Metal Bats
USA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee
March 27, 2007
The presence of metal high-tech bats in youth baseball has become both prevalent and controversial. The benefits of being "non-breakable" have often been placed against the risks of a purported higher baseball exit speed and resulting higher injury potential, especially to pitchers, due to a decreased reaction time. This concern has been followed closely, including the examining of available injury data in baseball. While baseball, like all sports, presents risks of injury to those pursuing the benefits and fun of participation, decisions on safety issues should not be left to anecdotal information and arbitrary governmental intervention but to a studied analysis of whether there are changes in the risk and its severity.
1. In Little League Baseball, utilizing their Group Insurance Plan over a recent 10 year period, the rate of significant face/head/neck injuries from a batted ball was found to be 2/100,000 players per season.
2. Among 14 other youth baseball organizations over the 17 seasons of 1989-2005 (with a total of 82 million participants at risk), there were reported 39 fatalities, 25 disabling injuries, and 29 significant injuries with complete recovery. Within those numbers, 27 were caused by a batted ball.
3. In 2002, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that their baseball-related injury data did not show that wood bats were safer than metal bats.
4. The NCAA Injury Surveillance System's baseball-related injuries show no higher increase in injuries from 1985-2006, but prompted the acceptance of metal bat performance standards that have caused all metal bats to be certified since 2003 as having exit speeds of 97 mph (which the National H.S. Federation has mandated as well along with a maximum barrel diameter and -3 differential between length & weight).
5. The continued concern over the use of standardized metal bats and the relative safety of baseball pitchers prompted this USA Baseball Committee to initiate a three-year study to learn the injury experience in 35 NCAA teams using metal bats and 55 collegiate summer league teams using wood bats. With one more year to follow, the current data show that injuries remain relatively rare and catastrophic injuries have not occurred to date. Further, the data do not show metal bats being associated with more severe injuries than wood bats.
It is indeed a fact that catastrophic injuries will occur at times in sport, including baseball, and that they have happened in baseball in association with both metal and wood bats. While awaiting the conclusion of this study to learn whether there is a significant injury-related difference between wood and metal bats among these players, it is clear that the rarity of significant serious injury in this sport remains confirmed.