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Ed Yeates ReportingSports researchers and trainers say while Ryan Nielsen's death is a tragic loss to family and friends, the accident is considered a rarity, a statistical anomaly. If you look at the low scorecard for only seven high school baseball fatalities over the past twenty years, none fits the description of this accident.
Though the L-shaped netting or cage is indoors at Taylorsville Recreation Center, it's identical to the one Bryan was pitching from. We asked Kevin Groves, who pitched college ball, to demonstrate where a person might be vulnerable even standing behind the net.
He pitched balls to Jason Kehr at bat. Kevin says if pitchers don't stand close to the net, they could get hit. In fact, while we watched Kehr hit a ball that zoomed above, but right through the L-shaped opening. But still, the pitcher's head would have to be turned precisely to the side within that L-shaped opening and the ball hitting dead on - to have such a catastrophic impact on the carotid artery.
Dr. James Walker, TOSH Human Performance Lab: "The research goes on and the equipment companies do everything they can and there has to be at some point - you can only protect so much."
Experts at TOSH's Human Performance Lab should know. They've tested protective equipment over the years. Back in 1996 manufacturers were even looking at NOT winding baseballs as tight to lessen the impact.
Steve Swanson, TOSH Human Performance Lab: "You do see a difference in the impact characteristics if they are wound a little tighter, and what's been accepted is there seems to be a little tighter wind to the newer balls these days."
Aluminum bats hit harder and tighter wound balls move faster. But still, a freak accident like this, especially using a wooden bat...
Larry Monson, Trainer, TOSH Human Performance Lab: "You're going to see more arm, shoulder and elbow injuries from excessive throwing and too much at one time in one week than you will ever from a freak accident like this."
Though a bizarre accident, Copper Hills High School will review the incident to see if any additional protective measures might help in future practices.