Children's baseball injuries on the decline

August 25, 2009

The number of injuries related to baseball that took parents and children to the ER in the last few years is on the decline.

For parents of children who play sports, such as baseball, there is promising news - the number of injuries related to baseball that took parents and children to the emergency department in the last 13 years is on the decline (25%). But precautionary measures to prevent future injuries are still necessary, according to researchers.

The latest study, which appeared online in Pediatrics (June), found that of 19 million children and youth who play baseball annually from 1994 to 2006, there was a steep decline in injuries from 147,000 in 1994 to 111,000 in 2006.

The study, led by a research team at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, showed that while injuries have declined in total numbers, the overall high number of injuries still occurring highlights an ongoing need to step up prevention efforts.

Of injuries reported, the most common was being hit by a baseball (46%); next most common was being hit with a bat (25%). Injuries included soft tissue injuries (34%), fractures and dislocations (20%). Parts of the body most injured were the face (34%) and upper extremities (32%).

Study authors suggest that protective equipment may play a positive role in the reduced number of injuries.

"Safety equipment such as age-appropriate breakaway bases, helmets with properly-fitted face shields, mouth guards and reduced-impact safety baseballs have all been shown to reduce injuries," said co-author Gary Smith, MD, DrPH in a statement. "As more youth leagues, coaches and parents ensure the use of these types of safety equipment in both practices and games, the number of baseball-related injuries should continue to decrease."

Data for the study was gathered on 43,000 baseball-related injuries involving children under age 18 logged in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Average age of children injured was 12 years; 83% were boys.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.2 million visits to the emergency room occur annually due to recreational activity-related injuries for children aged 5-14. Of those injuries, 775,000 are attributed to organized and unorganized sports.

Twice as many boys are likely to face sports injuries compared with girls, related in part to the fact that younger boys (under age 14) more often are involved in collision or contact sports. Also, youth aged 5 to 14 represent nearly 40% of all sports injuries.

Experts say that the number of injuries linked to sports could be cut in half through preventive measures.

Suggestions for such measures include:

  • Children should have a physical exam before starting new sports.
  • Wear proper protective gear, such as a helmet, face gear, knee pads, etc, as well as well-fitting shoes, loose clothing.
  • Stretch before play.
  • If you get injured, stop playing immediately. Follow a doctor's advice to heal properly. Obtain a doctor's OK prior to playing again.
  • Learn skills to keep injuries from happening, if possible.

The following suggestions were posted on the CDC Web site here.