When Los Angeles Dodger Chase Utley collided with New York Met Ruben Tejada at second base and broke Tejada's leg in a recent playoff game, it conjured some painful memories. In 2011, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a broken leg in a home-plate collision with Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins. And both brutal mishaps brought back memories of Pete Rose barreling into American League catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game.
Fosse suffered a separated shoulder in his collision with Charlie Hustle, but Major League Baseball didn't react. Posey's injury, however, led to a new rule forbidding the time-honored tradition of catchers blocking home plate as they wait to catch the ball so they can tag a runner out.
But new research suggests MLB overreacted. An epidemiologic study of catcher injuries during the 2001 through 2010 baseball seasons found that only 20 of the 134 injuries that put catchers on the disabled list were the result of a home-plate collision. Much more common were injuries from being hit in the head by a bat or a foul tip. The researchers noted that although he was injured, Fosse continued the 1970 season and won the Gold Glove award as the league's best fielding catcher.
“Rule changes for controlling contact injuries may not address the predominant cause nor prevent the major causes of time spent on the DL by MLB catchers,” the study author said. “Although home-plate collisions are dramatic, they are relatively rare and seldom career-ending.”