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Are We Doing All We Can to Keep Organized Youth Baseball Safe?

Updated on July 23, 2011

Are We Doing All We Can to Keep Organized Youth Baseball Safe?

I was reading an article that asked the question - are we are doing enough to keep our children safe playing organized youth baseball? This question is always in the minds of parents and the youth sports organizations.

The issue hit home because my 8 year-old daughter was hit in the head by another player swinging a bat. I went online to find out some statistics on the subject. What I found was reassuring in the fact that youth sports are safe, but accidents and injuries caused by lack of attention will always occur.

Here is a summary of a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The study deals with facial injuries to youth baseball players. But it really speaks to the larger question of the risks we’re willing to take when our children step on a diamond, a court or dive into a pool.

Two researchers from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, Christy L. Collins and R. Dawn Comstock, collected data from 100 high schools about baseball injuries from 2005 to 2007. In all, they found 431. Of those, nearly 12 per cent were caused by being hit by a batted ball.

Blows to the head/face (48%) and mouth/teeth (16%) accounted for the highest percentage of batted-ball trauma. Of the players who were smashed with a speeding baseball, 18% required surgery.

Collins and Comstock conclude their paper with this:. “[W]e strongly recommend that helmets with face shields or at least mouth guards and eye protection be used by pitchers, infielders, and batters at the high school level.”

I was astounded that they would recommend mouth guards. I was even more taken back to the fact that they strongly recommend pitchers and infielders were facemasks?

What were these two thinking? Why not recommend that they wear shin guards and chest protectors. Better yet, why don't we just stop youth baseball all together and create a Wii baseball leagues instead? But, I'm sure they would come up with other recommendations for that too. Maybe they would recommend that windows remain open to alleviate the air pollution in the room, or have an EMT or nurse available to take blood pressures when the kids get excited.

This debate goes on even among pediatricians. In Pediatrics, one children’s doc replied to the article with a letter stating: “Helmets would restrict peripheral vision and restrict the ability of the defensive ball player to dive for balls and also look upward for high fly balls.”

Unmoved, Comstock and Collins responded: “When helmets were introduced to football, ice hockey, and men’s lacrosse, some were concerned that injury rates would increase…however, few clinicians today would argue that these sports would be safer if helmets were not required.”

I think we all understand that there are inherited risks for any child playing youth baseball. But where do you draw the line? In my opinion, the emphasis on safety should be on educating our children about being safe and protecting our children off the field. For example - remove the bats from the dugouts. That is where my daughter was hit by a swinging bat - and the child swinging wasn't even in the game!

I believe we are doing everything technologically to make youth baseball safer, but accidents will always occur. Has there ever been a study to determine how many children are NOT injured because they were at a youth baseball game instead of being seriously injured at home, in a car, crossing the street, rough housing or playing in the backyard?

No, I didn't think so!



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