It's as American as apple pie and mom. It's the quintessential all-time American game, loved by everyone from eight-year-old Little League players to the parents playing on company teams. Baseball: nostalgic, beautifully orchestrated, and possibly hazardous to your health.
The Top 10 Baseball Injuries
Many children get their introduction to baseball in Little League or away at camp. You should make sure there is a capable coach supervising each camp—one who is not so enthusiastic that he asks kids to do dangerous things, such as leap too high for a fast ball, skid too fast into base, or throw the bat enthusiastically up into the air or out into the crowd where it can hit someone.
The baseball diamond's first aid kit should always include instant ice packs, adhesive bandages, sterile gauze pads, adhesive tape, scissors, first aid cream, rubbing alcohol, Ace bandages, and swatches of cloth to make slings for possible fractures and breaks.
- Pitcher's elbow. Baseball is a game with a lot of throwing action that puts pressure on the upper body. This condition, an inflammation of the bony joint of the elbow, occurs with repeated hard-slamming throws.
- Leg sprains and breaks. Baseball doesn't just involve the top part of an athlete's body. Every time a person throws a ball, the lower extremities get into the act. And don't forget those “sliding into base” moves.
- Shoulder pull. Another injury of the upper body, shoulder pulls occur from catching high balls, from throwing a ball to base with all you're worth or from hitting so hard with a bat, it cracks.
- Concussion. Even softballs can pack a wallop when they're thrown at top strength. Unfortunately, baseball players don't wear headgear (caps don't count), and sometimes baseballs land where they shouldn't …on vulnerable heads.
- Cracked teeth. Baseball players don't wear mouthguards either, and the ball that misses the top of the head can get the teeth.
- Broken jaw. The jaw, too, is exposed to flying baseballs during a game. A ball might hit a child on the outside of the jaw or face forward. Even a mouthguard can't protect against that.
- Black eye. By now, you know the culprit, a hard thrown ball. But, sometimes, a baseball bat can be the culprit. Maybe an enthusiastic hitter, running off to first, throws his bat—and, unfortunately, it lands on your child, who just happens to be sitting in the bleachers or waiting for his turn at bat.
- Heat Prostration. When an inning lasts forever in the hot sun, the pitcher can begin to look like Gatorade.
- Foot Injury. Sneakers are not always the best shoe to protect toes from getting stubbed or broken. Making a run to a base or getting hit in the foot from a bat or a ball is all it takes.
- Back Injury. Picking up foul balls, bending to catch a low-flying ball, jumping at an angle to get a curving ball—all of these cause back injury.
First Things First
More than 41 percent of all baseball injuries to kids occur to the head, face, eyes, or mouth.
Treatment and Prevention
Flexibility is key for back and shoulder injuries, sprains and breaks. All it takes is a warm-up before a game, plus five minutes of stretches, to keep muscles and joints limber, supple, and resilient.
Most fitness and exercise books offer good stretching exercises, providing both step-by-step instructions and illustrations. Some of our favorites include The Rockport Walking Program by James Rippe, M.D. and Ann Ward, with Karla Dougherty (published by Fireside Books) and Aerobics by Kenneth Cooper (published by Bantam Books). Your local Y should have drawings of stretches clipped on a bulletin board. And the President's National Council on Fitness, based in Washington, D.C., also has information on the best stretches to perform before exercising.
Although headgear and mouthguards are only found on umpires and the occasional pitcher, all players would do well to arm themselves with this protection. It would stop many tragic accidents to the head, face, eyes, and mouth.