A packed gymnasium can be a fun but dangerous place. Any time there are multiple sports being practiced, there is the possibility of injury from balls coming from another area of the gym.
Multiple-use sports, cages are a great solution for guaranteeing the safety of other gym users when practicing sports such as golf, baseball, softball, soccer, or cricket. But to maximize the safety benefits of a practice cage, there are a few things to consider:
The need to keep practice and batting cages away from solid surfaces is clear. Without enough space, a cage’s netting does not have room to reach full stretch and stop the progress of a ball coming in contact with a solid surface. This is a dangerous prospect that could result in various injuries.
Cages should be at least 24 inches away from any solid surface, including walls, columns, bleachers, and other gymnasium equipment.
Space cages wisely.
Proper spacing between practice and batting cage is also important. Without enough space between them, a cage’s netting can’t reach its full stretch and stop a ball from coming in contact with someone inside the practice cage.
Space cages at least 24 inches apart.
Pay attention to the netting.
To stop a baseball or softball, netting can have openings as large as 1½ inches, but golf balls will go through 1½-inch netting. To stop golf balls, netting openings should be ¾ of an inch. This ensures the safety of people outside multi-sport practice cages. For safety Draper recommends always using ¾” netting, because even though the original intent is to just use a cage for softball or baseball, there may be someone who decides it would be a good idea to use it for golf practice too.
Routinely check the netting for damage. Torn netting can create holes large enough for hit balls to escape. Also make sure the netting is of sufficient length to allow about 12” of netting to rest on the floor so that it prevents balls from going outside the cage. Make sure the net hasn’t worked loose from any attachment point.
Corners on each end of one long side should be zippered, tied, or have hook-and-loop so it can be separated from other sides. This side can fold up on top of the frame and multiple users can hit golf balls into the other long side. This increases the usefulness of the cage by allowing safe use by multiple people. Be sure all corners have been safely re-secured before allowing other uses.
Use safety belts and locks.
As with any equipment that will be suspended above people, it’s important to guard against falling. Practice cages have a large footprint, normally at least 10 feet wide and at least 55 feet long (though usually 70-75 feet long), so they cover a large area on the floor. If a cage falls, there is a greater chance of someone being in the area where the cage will hit.
Curtain locks stop the rotation of the drive shaft in case of a winch or braking failure.
Safety straps can also be used on practice cages. At least three are required. In addition to locating one at each of two opposing corners, one should be placed in the center. Having only two safety straps creates a false sense of safety. The frame tube is too flexible for the entire length to be supported only from the ends; the middle of the cage will still hit the floor without a safety strap being located in the center.
By following these simple guidelines, you will guarantee a safe environment, no matter how many athletes or concurrent sports practices you have.
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