On Tuesday, the Texas Rangers confirmed that star outfielder Josh Hamilton will miss six to eight weeks with a fracture in his upper right arm after sliding into home plate headfirst. Hamilton, the reigning American League MVP, told the media afterwards, "It was just a stupid play. I was too aggressive." Hamilton's injury has reignited the debate over whether baseball players should slide headfirst; some have argued that the headfirst slide is too dangerous, while others have argued that it is faster than sliding in feet first, and can be worth the extra risk. Fortunately for The Study, baseball is an especially numbers-friendly game, as anyone who's ever scored a game will tell you, and some studies have been done on this epoch-defining debate.
And these studies are not good news for headfirst advocates. A 2003 study of twenty collegiate baseball players in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found "no significant difference between head-first versus feet-first slide times," even though a majority of the players believed headfirst sliding was faster. A similar study of 60 players from Little League to the college level, published in 2003 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, came to the same conclusion: "We found no statistically significant difference in speed between head-first and feet-first sliding at all levels of play in this study." The next time you go for a steal in your rec softball game, then, try going in with your feet. And make sure to stretch first.
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