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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Johnson: Accident proves need for face masks

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shelbyville infielder Lauren Warren had surgery to stabilize an eye socket after taking a softball off the face during practice.
(File Photo by Danny Parker)
An unfortunate accident took place Monday at Shelbyville Central's fastpitch softball practice that has caught the attention of softball fans throughout Middle Tennessee.

Freshman Lauren Warren was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of her older sister, senior Kayla Warren, during an inter-squad scrimmage.

Lauren was playing second base and lost the ball in the sun.

She was taken to Heritage Medical Center, and later to Vanderbilt Medical Center where she underwent surgery Wednesday afternoon.

Three plates were placed above, around and under the eye to stabilize the eye socket and she may go home as early as today.

Great attitude

All of us who know Lauren knows that she is a very tough and competitive young lady. Those attributes will help in her recovery, both mentally and physically.

We've all grown to appreciate Lauren's huge smile and outgoing personality.

She is a very talented and skilled athlete in both softball and soccer and has a bright future ahead of her at Shelbyville Central and possibly at the next level.

With that said, no athlete is exempt from an unfortunate accident.

While talking to Eaglette softball coach Robin Ayers after Lauren's surgery, we discussed the accident and what can be done to help prevent such a tragedy.

One thing that we both mentioned was the need for infielders to wear face masks.

For a lot of players, that's not a popular thing to do. Masks are uncomfortable and hard to adjust to wearing, some say.

Those are pretty lame excuses, considering what Lauren has gone through.

"I know that we're going to talk about wearing face masks as a team," Ayers said. "Lauren's family hopes that if anything good comes out of this that it would be that others learned from it. I also think it might be something that the TSSAA might research and look into, making infielders wear a face mask."

I've helped coach a number of travel softball teams over the past several years and, thankfully, haven't experienced this type of injury, but I know we've been lucky.

Taking precautions

How much longer are we -- parents and coaches -- going to put our trust and faith in "Lady Luck"?

When Jami, my youngest daughter, started playing fastpitch softball several years ago, the first thing my wife, Peggy, did was buy her a face mask because she pitched.

Peggy is a dental assistant and has seen firsthand the damage a ball can do to a face or mouth.

After pitching with it on a few times, Jami decided not to wear it any more.

It was "uncomfortable and hard to get used to wearing," Jami said ... and we didn't make her wear it.

Jami now plays for Harris Middle and, Tuesday afternoon, they had a scrimmage at Christiana Middle.

When Peggy and I got to the game, we noticed Jami had her face mask out and ready to put on when they took the infield.

Peggy asked if I told her she had to wear it, and I informed her that I didn't.

We didn't have to tell her. She figured it out on her own after Lauren's accident.

We noticed that a number of other girls had their face masks on as well, and other parents said they were going to get one for their child.

That's just one testament of a lesson learned.

Strong support

There's another positive that's come from Lauren's accident: All the concern, support and love that have been shown by others.

The CoachT.com website features Tennessee high school sports. On that site are message boards for every sport.

I usually don't make it a habit of reading the message boards, but I decided to get a user name and password and post a message about Lauren's injury on the softball link.

I've been amazed how many positive responses that have been posted from all the other softball teams in District 8-AAA.

Every team has left a response wishing Lauren and her family the best and said they would be in their prayers. Many left very inspiring messages.

What a refreshing thought during this day and time, and it's great to see that people still put things in the proper perspective.

There's no doubt in my mind that Lauren's going to overcome this obstacle. She's always been a winner and has a great family and wonderful friends.

There can always be a positive spin from a negative situation and, hopefully, we'll all remember and learn from the price that Lauren paid for that opportunity.

Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer. He can be contacted at gjohnson@t-g.com.

Gary Johnson
Point by Point

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