LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The busy summer softball season is in full swing, but it’s not all fun and games out on the playing field.
A Lakewood girl was struck in the face by a line drive during a game last week, and her mother is certain she would have died had it not been for the face mask she was wearing while playing third base.
Payton Williams, 13, suffered a concussion and a few bruises, but is already back on the playing field.
“If I didn’t have my mask, the doctor said I would have had no chance of living,” Williams said.
“I was so scared the whole way to the emergency room,” said her mom, Tracy Williams.
For coach Bruce Hufford, it was a horrifying case of deja vu. His daughter was also hit in the head by a line drive two years ago, and had to be carted off the field and into an ambulance.
“It’s a horrible sound when the ball hits the mask. I heard that sound and it was my daughter falling to the ground again. You run out there and it’s emotional. It’s hard to see,” he said.
Both girls survived and recovered because both were wearing infielder masks.
Dawn Comstock at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado has conducted the nation’s largest study of high school sports injuries. She said about 8,000 high school softball players nationwide suffered concussions last year. Most were not batting but in the field.
“If we believe batters are at such a high risk for a getting hit by a pitched ball and they should be wearing one of these, a pitcher is subjected to an even higher speed and would also be affected,” Comstock said.
And not just pitchers, but infielders and outfielders. According to Comstock’s research, second base and outfield are the most dangerous positions on the field when it comes to head injuries.
But no states currently require players wear face masks, nor do most coaches.
“I think that’s ridiculous. I think any coach or parent would think we should do this. It seems like total negligence not to protect our kids,” Tracy Williams said.
That’s why Williams is on a mission to change that.
“It should be law. It should be mandatory for the whole softball association,” she said.
She wants to make sure that the fun on the field doesn’t end with a fatality.