How Common are Injuries for Baseball Fans?
For some people, the most exciting sign of spring is seeing flowers start to bloom again. For others, it’s opening day for the new baseball season. Baseball is widely considered America’s favorite pastime and for millions of people across the country, there’s no better place to spend a nice spring or summer day than at the ballpark cheering on their favorite team.
While it’s generally accepted that there are certain risks that come along with playing sports, a lot of sports fans don’t think much about the dangers spectators face. Being able to catch a foul ball that makes its way into stands can be a thrill for fans, but in many cases, those foul balls end up injuring fans. Foul balls aren’t the only cause of baseball fan injuries, though. Debris from shattered bats, home run balls, and balls hit during batting practice have all been known to injure baseball fans.
Baseball Fan Injury Statistics
While injuries to baseball spectators do occur, it’s difficult to know exactly how common they are. In a 2018 report which looked at injuries to spectators of many different sports, not just baseball, researcher Amit Momaya noted that there wasn’t much existing data or scientific studies around injuries to spectators at sporting events, stating, “Without data, there is no way to judge if spectator injuries are becoming more or less prevalent.” There currently isn’t a central database where these types of injuries are being recorded.
In 2014, Bloomberg News did a study into reports of baseball fan injuries and found that approximately 1,750 spectators are injured by stray balls at major league baseball games every year. This breaks down to be at least two injuries for every three games played. A separate investigation by NBC News in 2019 found at least 808 reports of fan injuries at baseball games between 2012 and 2019.
How Serious are Baseball Fan Injuries?
In most cases, these injuries are fairly minor, like bruises and small cuts, but some of them are much more serious. In 2015, Tonya Carpenter was attending a game at Fenway Park when she was rushed to the hospital in serious condition after she was hit in the face by a piece of a bat. In other cases, fans have sustained concussions and permanent vision loss or have even died after being hit by foul balls. Since baseball is considered a family-friendly activity, children are at a particularly high risk for being seriously injured in the stands.
What’s Being Done to Protect Baseball Fans?
With several reports of baseball fan injuries making headlines, it’s sparked debate over whether or not baseball teams and stadium owners could be doing more to protect fans. Modern stadiums tend to have seats that are closer to the players than they are in older stadiums. While this can create a more exciting atmosphere for fans, it increases the risk of fan injuries. In 2015, MLB introduced a new policy to encourage teams to extend protective netting to the near ends of both dugouts, adding about 70 feet of netting.
Since there isn’t a consistent way of recording data about spectator injuries, we not only don’t know exactly how many fans are being injured, it’s hard to know how effective existing protective measures are. The MLB’s policy for extended netting has been criticized for focusing too much on educating fans about the importance of paying attention to their surroundings. Although stadiums typically post signs in high-risk areas reminding fans to be on the watch for stray balls and bats, critics point out that stadiums are full of distractions like free wifi, pyrotechnics, video displays, and loud music which make it harder for fans to stay vigilant in watching for stray balls and bats. There’s also the fact that it can be difficult, if not impossible, for fans to react in time to a ball or bat heading that way. In 2015, Detroit Tiger Anthony Gose was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying, “Pitchers can’t react fast enough on the mound. How’s a fan going to react?…They can’t. They physically can’t.”
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’re a spectator injured at a baseball game, it’s important to consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Baseball stadiums have long been shielded by a rule that protects them from lawsuits as long as the stadium provides protective netting for fans sitting in the most dangerous seats behind home plate. If you look closely at the fine print on the back of tickets, you’ll likely see some fine print saying that the stadium or the team cannot be responsible for fan injuries. But over the years, there have been several cases where lawsuits were allowed to continue in spite of this rule.
Baseball stadiums have lawyers and insurance companies to protect them. You need someone who can protect you. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we have years of experience handling a wide range of Michigan personal injury cases and we aren’t afraid to take on big organizations to hold them accountable. Contact us today to get started.