Sliding Techniques to Avoid Injury


To celebrate the start of the 2016 MLB season, we are featuring a blog series this week with articles written by HSS surgeons who work with professional baseball players. Our first installment is written by Dr. Anil Ranawat, sports medicine surgeon. 

All baseball players need to slide at some point – whether as a base runner, an infielder going after a grounder or an outfielder tracking down a fly ball. Depending on the situation, sliding can cause injuries to a variety of body parts. It is important for baseball players to be trained to slide safely and effectively – do you know how to perform a safe slide?

Considering all of the recent discussion on MLB rule changes, let’s dig deeper and break it down by position…

As a base runner, you can slide headfirst or feet-first into a base. Here’s how to manage injuries in both situations. First, headfirst slides:

  • What’s at risk?
    • Injuries to your fingers, wrist or elbow due to the motion of sliding into a fixed base.
  • What can aggravate this?
    • Sliding past the base (also known as a drag slide), may increase the likelihood of injuring your elbow in the process.
    • Keeping your fingers extended when sliding into the bag can put you at greater risk for finger dislocation.
    • Fingers can unfortunately also get hurt during the tag depending on how hard the infielder comes down on your hand, or could even get stepped on by the infielder’s cleats.
  • How can you try to prevent these injuries?
    • Slide fist-first not fingers-first. You may notice professional baseball players holding their batting gloves in their hands while running so that their fingers stay in their fists and are protected.
    • Try to slide away from the base (also known as a loop slide) to avoid head-on contact with the bag and infielder.
    • Don’t have fear!

Now, what about feet-first slides?

  • What’s at risk?
    • Ankle injuries including sprains and breaks.
    • ACL and MCL tears in your knee.
    • Ankle and tibia fractures.
  • What can aggravate this?
    • When players return to standing immediately after sliding feet-first (pop up slides), this puts a lot of load on the ankle and knees and is a common way to injure yourself.
  • How can you try to prevent these injuries?
    • Try to slide past the bag with your feet while still down.
    • Use your hand to tag the base.

What if you are an infielder?

  • What’s at risk?
    • Thoracic and rib injuries.
    • Popping obliques.
  • What can aggravate this?
    • As a middle infielder, you may be sliding in one direction then suddenly straightening up and doing a 180-degree turn to throw to a base, thus going against inertia.
  • How can you try to prevent these injuries?
    • Once you control the ball, stop and get your footing. By stopping your original momentum and then re-starting new momentum, you are more likely to stay safe and less likely to throw the ball away.

What if you are an outfielder?

  • What’s at risk?
    • Chest injuries
    • Face injuries
  • What can aggravate this?
    • Sliding headfirst on the grass or turf to catch a fly ball can put a lot of force on your chest (could lead to blunt chest trauma)
    • Similarly, running into the outfield wall to try to catch a fly ball can also put force on your chest or even your face (possibility of concussions). This force can be stronger due to the harshness of the wall and grass and could be more serious than the act of sliding
  • How can you try to prevent these injuries?
    • Outfielders should either try to avoid slides completely, or can do a modified slide (feet first) instead of a headfirst slide.

A common abrasion that could occur to anyone who slides (whether offensively or defensively) is road rash. Always be sure to wear long sleeves and long pants to help prevent skin scrapes. If you do get road rash, you can treat with powder, protective adhesives and wrap with gauze.

Baseball is rarely thought of as a violent sport as it has limited contact compared to sports such as football and hockey.  Players must remember that slides can be dangerous for all parties (for the runner and for the fielder) and proper sliding technique will help protect all involved!

Dr. Anil RanawatDr. Anil Ranawat is an HSS orthopedic surgeon and assistant team physician for the New York Mets. His clinical and research interests are focused on joint-preservation surgery of the knee and hip, robotic surgery, partial knee replacement and mobile-bearing technology.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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