With little league in full swing, parents have been stepping up to the plate to ask me if I have any safety tips for preventing baseball injuries this spring and summer. Well, let me see if I can hit a few safety tips out of the park.
Each year Emergency Rooms see more than 100,000 baseball and softball injuries to children under the age of 15 – many of these to the ankle, and knee although eye injuries are also common. To prevent your child from becoming a little league injury statistic, make sure they have all the required safety gear every time they play or practice. This means a helmet, and ideally a face guard and mouth guard for batting or running the bases. If your child is a catcher, they will also need a face mask, chest and throat protector, and shin guards. All guys should wear a cup and athletic supporter. Children who wear glasses should wear protective lenses as well.
Before playing, all children should do two things: (1) warm up by stretching to prevent muscle strain injuries and (2) walk around the field to remove debris and rocks, or fill any holes that players can trip over or fall into.
Here are some other key safety rules:
- To prevent overuse and injury to the shoulder and elbow of a future pitcher, parents should check with the coaches to make sure pitch counts are being kept that are determined by the age of the player – the older the pitcher, the more pitches they are allowed to throw per week.
- Sliding should not occur headfirst, and breakaway bases that detach when someone slides into them should be used to prevent ankle and knee injuries.
- All players – on or off the field – should be paying attention to what is happening at all times to avoid being hit by a fair or foul ball.
- Make sure your ballplayer wears sunscreen.
- Make sure the coaches have a first aid kit available at all games and practices.
Finally, coaches should put the emphasis on fun and fundamentals rather than winning at all costs, because the latter approach can lead to a higher chance of injury.
Hopefully, tips like this will hit a home run and prevent you from making an error when it comes to keeping your child injury-free on the ball field this summer.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.