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Youth Baseball Injuries Are Common But Few Require Surgery

Sprains, Strains, Abrasions and Fractures Frequent

Although baseball is not considered a contact sport, players suffer a large number of injuries:

  • According to estimates and 2006 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than a quarter of a million children (398,665) ages 5 through 14 years are injured playing baseball each year.
  • A recent survey found that among athletes ages 5 to 14, fully one quarter (25%) have been injured playing baseball. Yet, in a three-year study of high school athletes in ten sports, the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) , found that baseball had the lowest injury rate of the high school sports studied (11.8 per 100 players).
  • Of that total, 95,000 suffer injuries serious enough to require treatment in hospital emergency departments.
  • Of injured high school baseball players included in a three-year study by the only one out of one hundred (1.1%) required surgery for their injuries.

Of injuries suffered by baseball players, the most common were:

  • Abrasions (scrapes), contusions (bruises), lacerations (cuts), muscle cramps/spasms (36.6% of all injuries suffered by high school players);
  • Strains (a partial or complete tear of a muscles or tendons)(32.7% of all injuries suffered by high school players)
  • Sprains (a partial or complete tear of a ligaments around a joint -- shoulder, wrist, finger, knee,ankle, toe)(16.2%), or
  • Fractures (the highest proportion of injuries (8.8%) in this category for high school players)

According to the NATA study:

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of the injuries were minor (the injury caused the player to miss the remainder of the practice or game, but he was able to play again within 7 days)
  • One in 8 (12.7%) of the injuries were considered moderate (causing the player to miss the remainder of the practice or game and the next 8 to 21 days), and
  • One in 10 (10.3%) were major (causing the player to be out more than 21 days).
  • Sliding into non-breakaway bases causes more than one-third of baseball injuries, mostly ankle and knee injuries (although the proportion of knee injuries, according to the NATA study, was the lowest of the ten high school sports studied).
  • Eye injuries are also common: baseball is one of the leading causes of sports-related eye injuries in children.
  • Along with basketball, baseball accounts for nearly half of all sports-related mouth injuries.
  • There were an estimated 56,400 facial injuries to baseball players ages 5 to 14 in 1995 requiring emergency room treatment.
  • Overuse injuries are common in baseball: mostly, shoulder and elbow injuries suffered by pitchers from too much pitching.
    • As many as 45% of pitchers under the age of 12 have chronic elbow pain.
    • Among high school pitchers, the percentage rises to 58%.
    • Pitchers suffer the most injuries (21.6%) of the high school players followed in the NATA study
    • According to the NATA study, one fifth of the injuries suffered by high school baseball players were while throwing (20.4%), while one quarter (25.1%) of the injuries were to a player's forearms, wrists or hands (25.1%)
  • Slightly more high school players were injured during practices (52.2%) than in games (47.8%).
  • Catastrophic injuries are rare: most occur when players are struck in the head or chest with a ball or bat (commotio cordis). On average three to four children under the age of 15 die each year from baseball-related injuries. As small as this number is, however, baseball still has the highest fatality rate among all sports.
  • Safety gear, including helmets and safety equipment for catchers, eye protectors and face masks on helmets, and the use of softer baseballs has reduced both the number and severity of injuries