America's favorite pastime is accident prone — for spectators. In a study published Tuesday, Bloomberg found that foul balls have resulted in about 1,750 injured spectators every year.
With data data obtained from first-aid booths in major stadiums across the country, Bloomberg counted more injuries in the stands than with batters hit by a pitch (1,536 times last season, as tallied by Elias Sports Bureau Inc.). Roughly 53,000 balls make it to the stands each year, according to foulballz.com.
The figure may seem paltry given the nearly millions of balls hit at major league games every year, but the foul balls can be fatal, particularly for children attending games. Bloomberg provides fatal examples from this year:
A 6-year-old girl hit by a foul at a Braves game underwent surgery in 2010 after the ball shattered her skull and pushed fragments into her brain. A 7-year-old in Chicago sustained severe brain swelling from a foul liner in 2008. Fouls sent an 18-month-old to a Seattle hospital last season and a 12-year-old in New York to intensive care in 2011.
In a legal brief over the 2010 case, the MLB explained that "stray balls are part of the very fabric of the game" and that fans "understand there is a risk of being struck by an errant ball." And unlike the NHL, which had implemented netting behind the goal line as well as higher Plexiglass above side boards in 2002, the MLB has no plans in place to add features to all stadiums. "There is no epidemic of foul ball damage yet that would warrant some sort of edict or action by the commissioner's office," the MLB told Bloomberg.
In the meantime, every team follows its own strategy for preventing foul ball injuries. Some follow local laws and guidelines, while others, like the Atlanta Braves, use ushers equipped with pagers that can call in emergencies, placing them in aisles with high foul-ball frequencies.
Read the full report here.