Baseball and Softball Safety

Read tips on keeping your children safe when they play baseball or softball.

According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, of all youth sports, baseball has the highest fatality rate, even though it requires much less safety equipment than such high-risk sports as football or hockey.

Gadget Guide

If your child's team has helmets that are too large for your child, buy him his own. A helmet that slips doesn't offer much protection.

Getting hit in the head with a ball is one of the potentially serious injuries a child can suffer playing baseball. Players should wear a batting helmet when batting, running bases, or waiting to bat. Some youth leagues also require players to wear helmets with face guards to reduce injuries to eyes, noses, and mouths. You also should remind your child to keep his eye on the ball, not only to improve his performance but to keep him from getting hit.

Boys should wear protective cups. Mitts should fit players well; they shouldn't be so loose that they might fall off. Don't let children play with bats that are too long or too heavy: Your child should be able to hold the bat at shoulder length, pointed straight out, with a steady, not shaky, arm.

Catchers should use a catcher's mitt and wear protective gear on their heads, faces, throats, chests, and shins.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says break-away bases, which yield on impact, could reduce large numbers of leg and foot injuries kids suffer when sliding into bases. Soft-core balls are also recommended. Cleats made of molded plastic are safer than metal ones.

Pitchers are vulnerable to repetitive stress injuries to their arms. If your child's pitching arm hurts, he should stop playing and tell the coach. Little League rules limit the number of innings a player can pitch per week, depending on his age, as one way to prevent such injuries. For example, 12-year-olds can pitch up to six innings a week and 13- to 16-year-olds can pitch nine. Baseball associations' rules vary, so check with the organization your child plays in for more information.

Softball

Although softball doesn't have as high a rate of injuries as baseball, there's still plenty of potential for head injury and falls. Players should wear batting helmets and cleats and follow the same safety rules described in the section on baseball. Breakaway bases should be used, too.

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