Three months after her concussion, Marianes — who had never played soccer before Baltimore intramurals and thus played in the bronze, or lowest-skill, league — returned to the field only to get another concussion. This time, a man ran at her full-speed, couldn't stop himself and "slammed [her] head in the board." Marianes, a predoctoral fellow from Charles Village, missed the next day of work.
In the past 14 years, Cray says he's banned only four players for life based on "unsportsmanlike conduct." Overzealous acts, such as a hard slide in softball, will result in the player's ejection from the game and a one-week suspension, he says.
Cray, who instructs coaches to remove "ultra-competitive" players, says the word "competitive" doesn't appear once on BSSC's website. The purpose of the league, he says, is to meet new friends. He proudly mentions there have been more than 150 marriages resulting from BSSC.
"If you're mean to a girl on the field, she's not going to talk to you at the bar," Cray said.
Sometimes, the drinking starts early. While league commissioners say alcohol consumption is not permitted at the games (it is technically illegal at Baltimore City and Baltimore County parks to have alcohol without a permit, which none of the leagues have), the presence of beer and other drinks is fairly common, numerous players said.
Bobby Hamilton, a 31-year-old who lives in Fells Point, said he broke his wrist in a BSSC kickball game in April after colliding with two tipsy female players on the base path.
"Their initial reaction was to giggle," he said.
While outside factors all play a role in intramural injuries — from alcohol consumption before the game to less-than-ideal playing fields to just being at the wrong place at the wrong time — Dreese says sometimes there's no avoiding getting hurt.
"Injury rates are most tied to the rate of participation," Dreese said. "The majority of injuries are just going to happen."
Hamilton, who played sports throughout high school and college, admits that his "overall fitness level and coordination aren't what they used to be," but that the mixed group of athletes and socializers are part of the problem, too.
"It's the weirdest mix out there," Hamilton said. "There's dudes in $300 worth of Under Armour going 120 percent and girls doing it just for the social aspect. It's a recipe for trouble."
Broken bones and egos aside, the risk of injury is not enough to dissuade young professionals in search of a good time with their peers. When Wilkinson broke her wrist, her father urged her to quit the kickball league.
"It was eight months before my wedding, and my dad was saying, 'What if it had happened right before it?'" she said. "But it's something a group of our friends get together and play every week. You can't do things in life wondering 'What if?'"
5 ways to help avoid intramural injuries
Not all injuries are avoidable, but the risk of minor, "overuse" ailments such as hamstring pulls and ankle can be lessened with preparation, according to doctors. Here are their tips:
Alexis Marianes said she feels "kind of silly" stretching before an intramural game because it could appear she's taking a recreational activity too seriously. But stretching will literally warm up your body, improving muscle elasticity in the process.
Wear proper equipment
In many cases, including football and kickball, field conditions worsen over the course of a day. Whether it's from rain or dew, things can get slippery out there, leading to possible injury. "I keep telling players to go to the clearance rack of Dick's and get a pair of cheap soccer shoes. The plastic cleats will help," said BSSC president Mike Cray.
Stay active year-round
This is a no-brainer but its benefits can't be understated. "We get busy in our working lives, but four or five days per week of 30 minutes of cardio will keep you in better playing shape," said Jennifer Kramer of the National Center for Sports Safety.
Hold off on the alcohol
Alcohol consumption negatively affects motor-skills and balance, so playing sports drunk, or even buzzed, can play a role in injuries. "Have your fun but be responsible about what you're doing," said Dr. Harrison Youmans of Union Memorial Hospital.
Don't make it worse
If something about your body is nagging you, get it checked out before taking on more physical activity. "Don't play hurt," Youmans said. "Follow up with somebody."