One year later, ASU player still recovering from broken neck after head-first slide

Last February, Arizona State University baseball player Cory Hahn, playing in the third game of his college career, wanted to give his team a boost by stealing second base. He decided to slide head-first, and the results of that split-second decision were beyond anything he could have imagined.

"I remember stealing second base and obviously sliding in, and I heard a crack, like a snap or something," Hahn told Tempe, Arizona television station KTVK. "I went to try to get up and I couldn't."

Hahn broke his neck in the incident and is now paralyzed from the neck down. His recovery continues to be an ongoing, arduous process, but he has the support of his teammates, family and school community.

Hahn's decision to slide-head first illustrates that sometimes the proper baseball equipment is simply not enough to prevent injury. Instead, coaches must teach their players proper techniques at a young age.

According to a well-known adage, baseball is a game of inches. A ball barely bouncing into the stands for a ground-rule double, a bang-bang play at home plate and a questionable third strike call by an umpire can all change the outcome of a game. For this reason, many players often try to slide into bases head first.

But, studies have found conflicting results regarding the benefits of head-first slides. Although most players believe head-first slides are faster, the numbers do not always support that argument. Still, Dr. David Peters, from Washington University in St. Louis, told ScienceDaily in 2008 that a head-first slide is slightly faster because a person's center of gravity is closer to the lower part of their body, so the feet trail behind in a head-first slide.

Players need to be aware of the risks of sliding head-first and may even want to avoid it altogether. They can also stay safe by wearing baseball helmets and other baseball sporting goods that are designed to lessen injury risk.