Baseball is one of the most popular U.S. sports for children and teens. While the rates of injury for baseball and softball are relatively low compared to other sports, the injury severity is relatively high.
To keep young athletes safe and healthy, the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its policy statement on “Baseball and Softball,” covering such topics as catastrophic injuries, overuse injuries, protective equipment, environmental risks, and developmental considerations.
The statement, co-authored by Joseph Congeni, MD, director of sports medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital, and Stephen Rice, MD, director of sports medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, takes into consideration a decade of data and research.
The AAP’s last policy statement on baseball and softball was published in 2001.
Baseball-related injuries seen at Akron Children’s ER and Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine typically include shoulder and elbow injuries suffered by pitchers, foot and ankle injuries, eye and facial injuries, and concussions.
“With the highly competitive nature of youth sports, many boys and girls begin playing ball by age 7 or 8 and play year-round, often on multiple leagues, through high school,” said Dr. Congeni. “With this level of play, it’s important for parents and coaches to follow guidelines to prevent overuse injuries, invest in proper equipment and teach kids the fundamentals of the game, such as the proper way to slide into a base.”
Pitchers are especially vulnerable to injury because of the arm force and speed generated during the windup. Tears of the ulnar collateral ligament, often requiring elbow surgery, in youth and high school pitchers have risen to nearly epidemic portions in the past five years.
Based on research, Little League Baseball sets a maximum number of pitches to be thrown in a day, as well as the number of rest days between pitching assignments. These guidelines vary by age and also include seasonal and yearly totals.
“Parents, coaches and league officials should be familiar with these pitch counts,” said Dr. Congeni. “Pre-season conditioning that strengthens the core, the rotator cuff and the shoulder-stabilizing muscles may also help reduce injuries, as well as teaching proper throwing mechanics.”
Here are additional recommendations from the policy statement:
“Baseball is America’s pastime,” said Dr. Congeni. “These ‘ounce of prevention’ guidelines will go a long way towards ensuring kids are having fun and staying healthy playing ball.”
To read the complete AAP policy statement on baseball and softball, go to http://pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-3593
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