WTOV-TV (Steubenville, Ohio)
May 18, 2023
With every generation of athlete seemingly getting bigger and stronger, youth leagues know they need the latest safety updates and equipment to keep their athletes as safe as possible.
“I’ve seen an awful lot of kids with shots hit up the middle, and I’m going, ‘oh my Lord, if that ball ever hit that kid in the chest, it would do serious damage.’ “
What former Major League coach Rich Donelly said is what many are thinking as they watch youth baseball games across the Ohio Valley this spring.
It’s nothing new, but perhaps it’s a front-burner issue for many after Buffalo Bill Damar Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest after taking a blow to the chest while making a routine tackle last season.
Weirton Medical Center Family Medicine Physician Dr. Courtney Levendorf explains how Commotio Cordis caused Hamlin’s cardiac arrest.
“At a split second of the rhythm of the heart, so it’s right when the heart is filling with blood and about to contract and spread that blood, so it happens at that point in the cardiac cycle and what it does is send the heart into an arrhythmic so the ventricular fibrillation and that’s what causes the cardiac arrest.”
Levendorf’s research indicates that fewer than 10 new cases of Commotio Cordis are diagnosed a year, with the majority of the cases involving males between the ages of 10 and 20 years of age while playing sports like lacrosse, hockey and baseball.
“I think we have to think ahead a little bit, think out of the box, you know, train these coaches that if something happens, they know what to do because it only takes one, and then they’ll say, ‘we’ve got to do something.’ ” Donnelly said. “Well, let’s not wait until something bad happens let’s prevent it, it’s preventative medicine.”
One of the tools that saved Hamlin was a portable defibrillator or AED.
“We know AEDs save lives and the sooner we get that applied and activated, the better chance there is at survival,” Levendorf said.
With youth baseball and softball seasons in full swing, we wanted to know what local leagues are doing to protect their players.
“We currently are looking at getting a defibrillator for our concession stand so we are looking into that, looking into some type of grant,” said Ted Gorman, president, Steubenville Baseball Association.
“There’s grant money out there so of course we want to definitely do that and we have safety kits in the concession stand also.”
For Gorman and Phillip Glyptis, who has been the Ohio Valley Youth Baseball League and Weirton Baseball Association President for the past 5 years, player safety is the top priority.
“Every single year, Major League Baseball, as well as Pony, issue guidance to the other associations, so almost every single year, you are implementing safety precautions at every single age group, a lot of which is with the bats — how fast, how hard the balls are coming off of the bats,” Glyptis said. “You also have the various safety equipment that they’re using — the chest protector and each year new equipment comes out that is supposed to be safer, and we implement those rules.”
Every league not only has to be prepared for an in-game incident but perhaps a player has asthma or is allergic to a certain food or a bee sting. Area leagues try to account for every scenario.
“We obtain basic information on every kid — health conditions so if something happens, we have a plan so we can react really quickly, so there’s a plan in place with the coach and the parents and we know what we need to do,” Glyptis said.
“I think just the safety and looking at and evaluating everything and how to improve. I think safety has to be No. 1,” Gorman said.
Gorman said Encino Energy is in the process of purchasing an AED for the league.