John P. Sheehan, M.D.
Boys Town Orthopaedics
Baseball is one of the most popular recreational sports for adults and children alike, with more than 40 million Americans participating in softball and baseball leagues every spring and summer.
According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, more than 3.5 million children under age 14 experience sports- and recreation-related injuries each year. Approximately 500,000 of these are baseball injuries that must be treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, clinics and ambulatory surgery centers.
If players, coaches and parents practice a few safety rules, most baseball-related injuries can be prevented. Keep your child injury-free this summer by following a few general rules provided by Boys Town Orthopaedics and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS):
- Always provide time for children to warm up and stretch. Have them start by warming up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for three to five minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
- Insist they wear safety equipment that fits properly.
- Have them wear a batting helmet with facial protection devices while at the plate, when waiting a turn at bat and while running bases.
- Follow the guidelines about the number of innings pitched as specified by your baseball league (usually four to 10 innings in a week) not by the number of teams played.
- Provide the appropriate mitt for their position. Catchers should always use a catcher’s mitt.
- Catchers should always wear a helmet, face mask, throat guard, long-model chest protector, protective supporter and shin guards.
- Require molded, cleated baseball shoes that fit properly.
- Inspect the playing field for holes, glass other debris.
One of the most common injuries to baseball players is referred to as “Little Leaguer’s Elbow.” This condition, according to the AAOS, affects pitchers and other players who throw repetitively and may cause pain on the inside of the elbow.
If your child experiences symptoms such as elbow pain, restricted range of elbow motion or locking of the elbow joint, he or she should stop throwing. Continuing to throw could lead to major complications. If such pain occurs rest the affected area and apply ice packs to bring down any swelling. If any pain persists after a few days of rest, or if pain reoccurs when throwing or resuming sports activities, see your child’s physician right away.
Qualified adults should supervise baseball as well as all sporting activities. The team coach should have training in CPR and first aid and children should be matched for sports according to their skill level, size and physical maturity.