Rabbitbrush Rambler: Playing safe

When the World Series started this year, I was off base. My excuse is that I was thinking about the mountain passes that I have visited, most of them beautiful and a few disastrous, like Tincup Pass.   

But, so much for reminiscing about the high country. In the World Series this year, the Dodgers have been playing the Astros, and I am glad to see that the game is still about baseball, not about whether to kneel or stand during the national anthem.

Whoever is playing, the catchers get my respect. Most spectators cheer and groan about the pitchers or the batters who are racing for first base, but it’s the catchers who have to know where every player is on the field and to anticipate what might happen after their signals set everything in motion. They’re the brains of the game.

Among the baseball greats, Yogi Berra was my favorite, but he is long gone from his position behind home plate, sad to say. He is considered by serious critics to have been one of the best ever, and we fans loved his memorable quips too.

It also helps any pitcher to have good equipment like the big glove with its deep pocket, and the helmet, the face mask, the chest protector, the flexible shoulder protector, the knee support, the leg guard, etc., etc., when a baseball is coming at you 90 miles an hour or a bat gets hurled in the wrong direction. I shudder to think of the cost of such safety equipment for baseball and other sports in colleges and high schools, but it’s worth it. The costs for the facilities and transportation are something else, though.

But what can you say? Sports are sacred rites, whether on the altars of local teams or of pros.

The costs also include injuries. Easy-to-find statistics on the internet reveal which sports cause damages to human bodies most frequently. While looking at the list, I began to understand how the strength of knees, muscles, ligaments, and other connectors like rotator cuffs is essential athletics, causing damage more often than broken bones and heads do.

Imagine the stresses made by the quick turnings and twistings of human bodies that weren’t originally designed to perform that way. Watching them makes it easy to understand why doctors and physical therapists remind all of us to stay in the strongest physical condition possible, even for ordinary activities.

In team sports, No. 1 in high school sports injuries is basketball, which doesn’t seem surprising when you think about all the stretching and speed. In injuries, football is No. 2, which is followed by soccer, baseball, and others such as gymnastics and dancing, wrestling and martial arts, softball, and volleyball. And let’s not omit something called Little League elbow that isn’t on the long list yet but will be before long, I feel sure. Team sports really start young these days.

Today football also has been getting negative publicity in articles in which studies have been discussing the effects of repeated concussions and encephalopathy. Other studies warn of harm caused to youngsters’ brains that have not yet developed fully. Parents need to think twice before sending kids out to join the team and get knocked on their heads.

The list continues on and on, including even cross-country skiing, which sounds pretty tame, but if you aren’t equipped with common sense, safety, fitness, and experience, watch out. That’s why I landed on my head on Tincup Pass, followed by a trip to the hospital and lost work.     

Like the Great Yogi said, “We made too many wrong mistakes.”