Thursday, July 26, 2007

Margaret Ruth "Maggie" Hilbrands Dies in Softball Accident. Please Advocate for Safer Softballs and Baseballs. Andy Buff, Cayden Huel, Brandon Patch


Margaret Ruth "Maggie" Hilbrands lost her life this week in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was 12 years old. While taking infield practice, she missed the ball and got hit in the head. She lost consciousness and died a day later in the hospital. Legal Pub believes this may be a needless death because the game is supposed to be "softball." Whether a safer ball would have prevented Maggies freak death is debatable. Yet, to this day they play the game with balls that have a compression that makes the ball harder than is necessary. Before sport's nuts jump all over me as an "outsider," I have coached class A and class B traveling softball teams for over 15 years. I am proud to claim former players who have gone on to excel in college. Even though the core of the ball has been reduced to .37, there is no reason it can not be further greatly reduced.
Maggie was hit by a ground ball during an infield drill. Granted, it was a freak injury to an artery. However, this came only days after the death of minor league baseball coach, Mike Coolbaugh. Mike was killed by a batted baseball. (Baseballs are even more dense than Softballs.) Maggie died at DeVos Children's hospital. Her mom, Jan Hilbrands did not blame anyone. However, if Mrs Hilbrands starts directing blame toward the manufacturers of the ball and the associations that govern play, perhaps they will create a safer less dense ball. Maggie was going into the seventh grade at Christian Middle School. Her team Lowell Extreme has scheduled a memorial tournament in Maggie's honor. That is great. Now in her honor, please ask the manufacturers why a less dense ball should not be used to play this great sport known as "softball." Even if it could not have prevented Maggie's death, it may save some future player form serious injury.
Update 8-6-07: Reader comments have added some statistics of injury. Judge for yourself.

Update 8-10-07: A reader comment has referred to a medical examiners report that in his opinion the hardness of the ball may not have been related to the fatal injury.

Andy Buff

Update 9-29-07
Andy Buff an 11-year-old boy was hit with a baseball as he squared to bunt. He was hit in the chest by the ball, lost consciousness, and his pulse stopped. Fortunately, quick work from two medical professionals who had sons playing in the Greenville County tournament saved Andy from death. A 2005 article by Dr. Michael A. Yorio and Dr. Tom Marino of the University of Maryland Sports Medicine call such injuries, commotio cordis ("sudden cardiac death after a chest blow without physical damage to the heart.") The doctors wrote that blunt trauma to the chest from a hard ball is transmitted to the heart. If it occurs at the wrong time during a heartbeat, it disrupts the organ's electrical system and triggers a change from a normal rhythm to a fatal arrhythmia. Thank God that two professionals were present this week to save Andy Buff. Perhaps someone will hear the call to use lower compression and lower core balls in sports.

Update 11-05-07 Anyone listening yet? In Florida, Cayden Huels (age 4) died after he walked in front of a "pitch-back net and was hit in the chest by a baseball.
Cayden Huels was a victim of a sudden heart disturbance "commotio cordis". "It has to be a specific location and carefully timed in the cardiac cycle," said Dr. Barry Maron, a cardiologist with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. An autopsy Friday showed Cayden died of ventricular fibrillation caused by a blunt impact to the chest, said Harrison Cowan, a medical examiner's investigator in Tampa.
Update 4-28-08: Story about a woman who injured her eye from a thrown softball. LINK.
Update 10-29-09: A Helena District Court jury has awarded actual damages of $850,000 to the family of Miles City American Legion baseball player Brandon Patch. Brandon died six years ago after he was hit in the head with a baseball batted from an aluminum bat. The verdict was against Hillerich & Bradsby for failure to place warnings on the bat. However, the jury decided the bat was not defective. Hillerich & Bradsby make Louisville Slugger aluminum baseball bats. Patch's attorney Joe White unsuccessfully argued that the bat in question has a defective design because it can hit a ball so fast you can't see it. Helena District Judge Kathy Seeley presided over the case. It would have set a much better precedent if the manufacturer of the ball had been targeted.

66 comments:

Anonymous said...

And I thought the game was suppose to be played to improve one's health, improve your skills, learn about team work and have fun.

Guess I was wrong.

Bobbi

Anonymous said...

I agree Bobbi

Sue em until they reduce the risk of serious injury!

Jeff

Haley the Heroe said...

Seems like a no brainer!


Haley

Anonymous said...

i have played softball for almost all my life and i have been hit numberous times. i never thought a "softball" could do something like that. i agree and think that the ball should be made to make sure nothing like this ever happens again!

Ron said...

I agree, that something needs to be done with softballs. I grew up on Chicago where they play with 16 inch softballs, and remember how incredibly different a new clincher is from one that has been hit a few times. They soften up in a hurry, but the new ones can break a finger, sting your hand, and now we know much worse ( realize this accident was probably with a smaller softball).

I am less familiar with the smaller 12 inch softballs, but it should be fairly easy to make them softer. It also might make sense to make them lighter, to reduce the chance of this type of injury.

brad said...

The 12 inch balls do not get much softer unil they are very old. There is no reason or justification for not softening the core. If the less dense balls do not fly as far, either shorten the fenses or lift the bat restrictions so that the pillow balls still make the game enjoyable.


Brad

blond bombshell said...

I think you people are too soft! The game is a tough game. If you are worried about getting hurt, either wear a helmut in the field or stop playing.

A player knows the risks. They are remote. They are worth taking. Toughen up.

Shell

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Mainstream news is missing the point. Let's do something to prevent future deaths!



Sally

Anonymous said...

I for one will shout about safety. Come on Mrs. Hilbrands!

concerned mom said...

So young, such a waste!

ryan said...

It is a problem that can be solved. Why not solve the problem. It is not the bats. It is the ball. Whether thrown or hit, too hard of a ball just an invitation for injury.

Ryan.

Anonymous said...

Come on Mrs. Hilbrands, start a crucade for softer core softballs and baseballs.

Anonymous said...

Maggie's death is a tragedy, indeed. I think the lesson to learn from this is to try to always cherish time with your kids as you never know when they may be involved in an accident.

This was an accident. "Billion to one" odds the doctors have told the family. The autopsy shows that death wasn't caused by blunt force, but rather a tear in an artery. The ball was thrown (not hit off a bat) - and hit the exact wrong spot. Not sure if a softer ball would have made a difference.

Please pray for the family.

Former Insider said...

I used to work for a ball manufacturer. I can tell you that softer core balls have reduced the number of severe injuries. They have the capacity to further reduce the compression of the ball. This would mean fewer orbital fractures and fractures of facial bones. It would also reduce the odds of injuries to the temple. Finally, while a tear of an artery is rare, a softer core ball would definitely reduce the odds of such an injury. Think about it, could someone likely throw a "pillow ball" hard enough to damage an artery? No.

This is a tragedy. But it could likely have been prevented with a very low compression ball. There is no good reason not to lower the compression of the ball to safe limits.

Maggie is one of many deaths from softballs that are not "soft."

Anonymous said...

Check out the "National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research" statistics report for the period 1983-2006. It lists one fatal high school/college female softball injury for the 23 years.

www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi/AllSport.htm

"Many deaths from softballs" says former insider?

former insider said...

Anonymous, yes I am a former insider. I was not referring to just female softball. Futhermore just because it was not reported does not mean it did not happen.Specifically, I was referring to men and coeds as well. Would you like to talk to some widows? Try www.Mohrsoftball.com, Mr. Statistic and then come back and admit you are mistaken. I no longer have the stats and would not like to get my former employer in trouble, but I know reports of several males who have died playing softball. One relatively recent head and one chest injury come to mind. Many injured players with concussions and facial fractures from thrown (usually from short to first) or batted balls in the male leagues.

With females, it is mostly deviated septums and fractured orbits (bone around the eye) usually causing surgery. These are usually batted balls all though several short to first double plays were involved. It is not needed. It is simple to further reduce the density (compression) of the core of the ball to reduce the probability of injury. Those that do not understand that principle, likely do not want to understand it.

Anonymous said...

OK Mr. Statistic-less, not sure what I am supposed to see on the website, but they do have a nice list of vendors who sell "non-soft" softballs. If the widows you reference lost husbands to ball injuries, they have my sympathies. I spoke with 20+ of Maggie's relatives last weekend. Not one word about blaming the ball or the coach or whatever. I think someone will have to find another candidate for their "softer-ball" crusade.

The reason we are discussing this topic - fatal softball injury - is because it is RARE.

"Many deaths from softballs"....what does this mean? Cannot be percentage based, because 30-40 Million people play recreational softball annually. I doubt it means absolute numbers....there is probably less than 10 annual fatalities in baseball and softball. What does "many deaths from softballs" mean?

Maggie's life was not in vain. Quite the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Annonymous your protest too much. What are you scared of? How does decreasing the compression of the ball to make the game safer ruin your life? Make the game not tough enough for you? Give us a nick name so those of us can respond to you in an intelligent fashion.

Gee Gee

Anonymous said...

For statistic lovers, here are some of the facts. The overall incidence of injury in baseball ranges between 2% and 8% of participants per year. Among children 5 to 14 years of age, an estimated 162 000 baseball, softball, and tee-ball injuries were treated in emergency departments in 1995. The number of injuries generally increased with age, with a peak incidence at 12 years. Of the injuries, 26% were fractures, and 37% were contusions and abrasions. The remainder were strains, sprains, concussions, internal injuries, and dental injuries.

The potential for catastrophic injury resulting from direct contact with a bat, baseball, or softball exists. Anyone saying to the contrary is sadly mistaken. Deaths have occurred from impact to the head resulting in intracranial bleeding and from blunt chest impact, probably causing ventricular fibrillation or asystole (commotio cordis).

Children 5 to 15 years of age seem to be uniquely vulnerable to blunt chest impact because their thoraces may be more elastic and more easily compressed. Statistics compiled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission1 indicate that there were 88 baseball-related deaths to children in this age group between 1973 and 1995, an average of about 4 per year. This average has not changed since 1973. Of these, 43% were from direct-ball impact with the chest (commotio cordis); 24% were from direct-ball contact with the head; 15% were from impacts from bats; 10% were from direct contact with a ball impacting the neck, ears, or throat; and in 8%, the mechanism of injury was unknown.

Direct contact by the ball is the most frequent cause of death and serious injury in baseball and softball. Preventive measures to protect young players from direct ball contact include the use of batting helmets and face protectors while at bat and on base, the use of special equipment for the catcher (helmet, mask, chest, and neck protectors), the elimination of the on-deck circle, and protective screening of dugouts and benches. In softball, game face (protective mask) is now being used by 1st basemen, 2nd basemen and pitchers with more frequency.


EQUIPMENT

Modifications in the hardness and compressibility of softballs and baseballs have been developed for use by players of different ages with the intent of reducing the force of impact while maintaining performance characteristics. The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) has developed standards for these softer baseballs. An expert review indicated that softer balls that meet the NOCSAE standard are less likely to result in serious head injury or commotio cordis attributable to ball impact.

Chest protectors for batters are a relatively new product. They are produced in 2 styles: a small 6 × 6-in polyethylene square intended to protect the heart from ball impact; and a high-density plastic and foam vest intended to protect the rib cage and the heart and other vital organs. Expert review of the available scientific literature indicated that the way in which baseball impact causes death is unknown at the present. Therefore, the effect of any equipment on the risk of chest impact death remains undetermined.

Concern has been raised about injuries to the eye. Baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in children, and the highest incidence occurs in children 5 to 14 years of age. Approximately one third of baseball-related eye injuries result from being struck by a pitched ball. As a result, for this age group, Prevent Blindness America has recommended the use of batting helmets with polycarbonate face guards that meet standard F910 of the American Society for Testing and Materials. These cover the lower part of the face from the tip of the nose to below the chin. They also protect against injuries to the teeth and facial bones. Functionally one-eyed athletes (best corrected vision in the worst eye of less than 20/50) must use these face guards. They also must protect their eye when fielding by using polycarbonate sports goggles.

Compared with older players, children younger than 10 years often have less coordination, slower reaction times, a reduced ability to pitch accurately, and a greater fear of being struck by the ball. Some developmentally appropriate rule modifications therefore are advisable for this age group, including the use of an adult pitcher, a pitching machine, or a batting tee. The avoidance of head-first sliding and the use of softer balls should be considered. Head first sliding should be banned for players younger than 10 years inorder to reduce cervical spine injuries.

Much of the injury research has concerned baseball and is not differentiated between baseball and softball. Injury risks are similar in softball. Therefore, the same recommendations for injury prevention in baseball apply to softball except for limitations on pitching.

Stat Man

Legal Pub said...

No one is blaming the coach. But there is no legitimate reason not to reduce the compression of the ball that I know of...

Softballfans.com and Mohr softball have over the last 10 years had injured players and family members discuss injuries and fatalities. No one recommended suing the coaches. Some pitchers advocated moving the mound back, bat restrictions, wearing game faces and reducing the core compression of the ball. Third basemen also joined in the discussion.

Some argued that reducing the core of the ball would reduce the number of home runs. I doubt it. But if that were truely an issue, the fenses could be brought in a few feet.

I join the other posters. Please educate me why the compression of the ball should not be reduced by regulation of
ASA, NSA, USSSA, etc? We are not talking about lawsuits, we are talking about safety. Just what are we not getting?

blond bombshell said...

Bozo, if I may call you that affectionately. Stats for highschool and college mean little. These are the best of the best athletes. Lets look at kids like Maggie, thank you.

Thanks to the Institute for Preventive Medicine, they provided a study that showed a reduction in chest injuries with only a major drop in the core of the ball.

"Based on the results of this study, further analysis and testing regarding the biomechanics of commotio cordis is encouraged. When all other factors are equal, however, the presented test method and the calculation of VC provides a means of determining the risk of injury related to blunt chest impacts. Based on this test method, only the baseballs with the lower VC values would have a lower risk of injury. Those baseballs with VC values that are not significantly lower than those of the controls should not be considered to be safer than the standard baseballs. Furthermore, the efficacy of educational coaching regarding injuries related to baseball and softball should be assessed."

Stat Man's Female Helper

Shell

Bozo said...

I will be perfectly frank. The initial posting of this blog was significantly deficient in the description of the incident. But what really set me off is the following:

While the original blog has now been appropriately updated to report this as a FREAK ACCIDENT due to a series of events (see coroner's report)- it would seem that acknowledging such indicates that the compression of the ball may not have had anything to do with this accident.

In this case, the ball was thrown to a fielder. The M.E. does not believe the impact itself caused the artery to tear.

There are some great stats sited about injuries/deaths caused by playing ball. A great deal are probably directly related to the compression of the ball core.

What I am trying to say is you probably have a great cause - but are you helping your cause when this accident doesn't appear related and you further add insult to the family by suggesting that Maggie's life is "in vain" unless you advocate my position?

Re-read the title of this blog. Insert your child's name.

Legal Pub said...

I will not call you any name because I do not encourage that on this site. Yes, the coronors report came out after the original blog entry and was edited appropriately as it was a feak accident. I understand that a tear of an artery is rare. Certainly no player or coach is to blame.While the medical examiner may be of the opinion that the tear of the artery was not necessarily the cause of the tear that does not make sense to me. I will use a ridiculous analyogy to illustrate the point. Would Maggie have torn an artery if she had been hit by a "nerf ball?" Unless, I am missing some thing, I think even the medical examiner would agree that the answer is no. So the real question is how soft would a ball need to be in order to have prevented this injury? If it would have had to be so soft that it would materially affect the game of softball, then I would agree that the injury would not likely be preventable. But there are a lot of other serious injuries that could be prevented.

Nothing in this blog was ever intended to be disrespectful to Maggie or her family. To the contrary, the point of the blog was to bring attention to softball safety with the hope that even if lower compression balls could not have saved Maggie, it would be helpful if her family and friends would advocate for lower compression balls so that others may be spared of severe injuries. In that light, the title of the blog entry has been changed.

randy w. said...

Legal Pub,
Your coverage and your message was clear, fair and to the point. No one can argue that a safer ball would not prevent injuries. It may or may not have prevented Maggies, we will not know because one apparently was not used.


Randy W.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind not all doctors agree on issues in life. This is especially true in forensic pathology. I would speculate there are physicians who would be of the opinion that had Maggie been hit by a real soft ball, that her artery probably would not have torn at that time. How soft of a ball would be the question as would be how friable was the artery.

Your advocation for safer balls is good sound advice even if it would not have saved Maggie. With the data that is public, reasonable minds can differ in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Andy Boff is one lucky young man to have health care providers who immediately saved his life.

Anonymous said...

Andy Boff may now believe in better rules to promote safety!

Legal Pub said...

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) - A 4-year-old boy collapsed and died after he wandered in front of a "pitch-back" net and was accidentally struck in the chest by a baseball thrown by another youth.

Cayden Huels was a victim of a sudden heart disturbance called "commotio cordis" _ Latin for "heart commotion" _ a cardiologist said.

Commotio cordis happens from time to time, but seldom to such a young child. The chest wall impact must be near the center of the heart, and there's only a 1 percent or 2 percent chance of it happening at the precise moment when it can be deadly.

"It has to be a specific location and carefully timed in the cardiac cycle," said Dr. Barry Maron, a cardiologist with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation who has studied the phenomenon for a decade. "You have to be unlucky."

Cayden died Thursday night. He had pulled away from his 12-year-old brother at a local park and stepped in front of the pitch-back net, which bounces a thrown ball back to the pitcher.

An autopsy Friday showed Cayden died of ventricular fibrillation caused by a blunt impact to the chest, said Harrison Cowan, a medical examiner's investigator in Tampa. Fibrillation results in little or no blood being pumped.

Anonymous said...

Sad news about Cayden Huel. I doubt anyone will listen until it is their relative or loved one...

Anonymous said...

Poor Cayden. Why not make balls with softer cores? This is stupid!

Anonymous said...

L.P., you are a head of your time!

Viper said...

L.P. I admire your advocating for safety. Even though you are mostly a defense lawyer, I have come to think you are "okey."

Anonymous said...

Good statistics in comments!

Kaylav23 said...

My name is Kayla VandenBosch and I am 13. Maggie Hilbrands was one of my closest friends since kindergarten. We both attended Creston Christian for grades K-5 and for 6-8 were planning to go to the Grand Rapids Christian Middle School. I still attend GRCMS as a 7th grader. Our whole school misses Maggie so much. The same day Maggie passed away, my family had to put my dog down. It was probably the worst day of my life. July 24 will be a date never forgotten for many.

Anonymous said...

Kay, say a prayer for your friend. She should never be forgotten. Live each day to the fullest and be the best person you can be.

Anonymous said...

Minnesota Twins pitcher Nick Blackburn got layed out after getting a line drive to the face during the game against the New York Yankees. The Twins defeated the Yankees, 5-1, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sunday, June 1, 2008 for those who care.

The injury to Nick looked pretty nasty.

Anonymous said...

Participation in recreational softball has grown in recent decades. In 1991, it was estimated that more than 42 million adults and children were playing softball. Recent changes in bat and ball technology have made the position of pitcher particularly dangerous in slow-pitch recreational softball. Several deaths have been attributed to pitchers being hit by batted balls. There is a new emphasis on balls being hit towards the pitcher. These hits at the pitcher exemplify a generalized safety concern.

Anonymous said...

I've played softball for about 4 years now. And believe me, they probably hurt way more than any baseball ever would. Playing softball, or any other sport for that matter, has it's risks. This obviously wasn't an intentional thing. If a different ball was used, maybe Maggie would've lived. Companies do make softer soft balls but they're much harder to play with. I don't quite know what to think. I'd rather play with a soft softball than winding up dead because of a simple accident.
-An old Classmate of Maggie's

Anonymous said...

Old Class Mate:

I agree! I would rather play with a softer core ball and not have it travel as far then play with one which causes so many injuries!


Penny

Anonymous said...

Probability of a pitcher getting hit in the face with a batted softball 1 in 212,013.

Anonymous said...

that is so weird yet cool

Anonymous said...

Not real likely to get hit in the face, but when you do:

OUCH!

Anonymous said...

Guys, I've been thinking about this for just over 2 years now. My mind hasn't changed about this. Softball has this risk, right? It was simply a freak accident. It probably won't happen, correct? I don't think it will. I'll never blame anyone for this: not Maggie, not the coach, not the other players. Just saying thanks to you guys who agree with me here. It really helps the Hilbrands out. Having supporters, I mean. I never got to know Maggie very well, but she was a strong Christian and an all around good person. She's in heaven. Thank God for Maggie.
-An Old Classmate of Maggie's (2years ago)

Anonymous said...

Maggies injury may not have been preventable. But many are preventable with a softer core ball. You may not be able to hit it as far, but it could save some broken bones and some major hemmoraging.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing classmate. Don't ever forget Maggie.

Anonymous said...

Maggies's story has brought attention to ball safety. But is it enough?

Anonymous said...

I feel I am a better, smarter person for having read this forum, comments and thinking about Maggie and softball safety.

Anonymous said...

Everyone shall remember MAGGIE and hopefully, this will include the manufacturers.

Anonymous said...

My daughters a catcher. She loves ball. She has played it all through her youth and into college years. While softball has been important, safety has always came first. She wore a cage on her batting helmet before it was required. She wore a game face whenever she pitched or played third.

Now, she would gladly give up a few home runs a year to make the ball softer so that the risk of severe injury was lessened.

Proud Parent

Anonymous said...

thanks proud parent!

Anonymous said...

Maurice Davenport, a 14-year-old was killed in a freak softball accident in Chicago Wednesday.

Cardiac experts say a blow to the chest with a lacrosse ball, an air-filled soccer ball, and even a softball at relatively slow speeds can cause a fatal heart arrhythmia.
The boy fell on a softball he had caught during his school's first game of the season, falling chest-first. He then asked for a glass of water before collapsing on the field in Roseland. .

"It was just the sudden impact. He made the catch and the ball was between the ground and his shirt. He threw up and then his eyes rolled back and he passed."

Anonymous said...

I was just at the memorial tournament in Lowell today. It was very sad and we thought the ball was a little different. I wonder if it was a less dense ball...

Anonymous said...

Lets hope maggie and others have indeed inspired the use of a safer less dense ball.

Legal Pub said...

Update 10-29-09: A Helena District Court jury has awarded actual damages of $850,000 to the family of Miles City American Legion baseball player Brandon Patch. Brandon died six years ago after he was hit in the head with a baseball batted from an aluminum bat. The verdict was against Hillerich & Bradsby for failure to place warnings on the bat. However, the jury decided the bat was not defective. Hillerich & Bradsby make Louisville Slugger aluminum baseball bats. Patch's attorney Joe White unsuccessfully argued that the bat in question has a defective design because it can hit a ball so fast you can't see it. Helena District Judge Kathy Seeley presided over the case. It would have set a much better precedent if the manufacturer of the ball had been targeted.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like juries are starting to listen. Now get the lawyers to sue the right folks, the manufacturers of the balls and we will get some positive steps toward ball safety.

Anonymous said...

Baby steps.... reform will come in baby steps.

Anonymous said...

Time for talking has passed. Lets start seeing some action.

Anonymous said...

If the balls are too hard for you, then stop playing. Find a asa league or somethin. Freak accidents happen in everyday life.

Anonymous said...

ASA has taken some steps to soften the balls and deaden the bats. But more needs to be done. Folks that don't recognize the danger are naive. By deadening the balls and bats a little bit more, the risk of head injuries can be reduced.

Would not likely have prevented the freak injury to Maggie, but it would have to some of the others.

Anonymous said...

Have some balls! Stand up and against hard balls in youth sports.

sonam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Legal Eagle 3 said...

Keep on topic or be deleted!

Anonymous said...

Are injuries down this year? Haven't heard of any major injuries.

Anonymous said...

I have been playing softball sense I was a little girl, and I agree it is a dangerous sport but don't go on saying that the balls density is the problem. If you decrease the density then the ball will be easier to hit farther i.e. a softie. But girls go into this sport should be aware of the dangers that the sport produces. It's nobodys fault it is just the way the field comes into play and whether or not the fielder can field. My heart goes out to the little girl, it is quite traggic.

Commish said...

Thanks for the comments. But studies actually show that a softer ball results in lower bat speeds and the ball traveling less distance. Blue dots for example are softer and travel shorter distance than the harder balls.

Anonymous said...

The ball should definitely be changed to a safer ball.