Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mouthguards, helmets and Tommy John surgery

As followers of this blog know (due to my railing on the subject) all youth sports injuries are not created equally. There are two major types: acute injuries that are incidental to the sport being played, i.e., turning an ankle on second base or catching an elbow in the face during a fight for a rebound; and overuse injuries caused pretty much by one thing: playing sports so intensely that a kid's body breaks.

Some recent info on both types:

According to a new study, the number of acute baseball injuries is falling, at least those that are showing up in hospital emergency rooms. The annual number of those injuries fell 24.9 per cent from 1994 to 2006, according to the research, just published in Pediatrics.

From the report: "The most commonly injured body parts were the face (33.5%) and the upper extremity (32.4%). The most common injury diagnoses were soft tissue injury (34.3%) and fracture (18.4%). The most common mechanism of injury was being hit by the baseball (46.0%). Children in the 9- to 12-year age group had the highest injury rate (2.4 per 1000 population). When injury rates were calculated by using baseball-participation data (2003), children in the 12- to 17-year age group had a higher injury rate (19.8 per 1000 participants) than those in the 6- to 11-year age group (12.1 per 1000 participants)."

More from the study: "Youth baseball is a relatively safe sport for children. Although injury rates and the total number of injuries declined during the study period, our findings indicate that there are opportunities for making baseball an even safer sport for children. We recommend that all youth baseball players wear properly fitted mouth guards, that all leagues, schools, and parks install safety bases, that all batters use helmets with face shields, and that all players use safety baseballs."

Meanwhile, there's less (i.e., nothing) to indicate a dip in overuse injuries among youth baseball players. In fact, the anecdotal reports point to just the opposite. Here's the latest alarm bell, a good piece on youth pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery in last week's Oregonian. If you question whether we're really putting kids at risk, consider this paragraph from the article:

"Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala., has become a household name in the baseball world. He has seen a steadily rising percentage of young pitchers coming in for his elbow ligament replacement surgery. More than one-quarter of his 853 patients in the past six years were at the high school level or younger. One was 7."

1 comment:

Cal said...

I would also personally like to see the pitchers and infielders wear batting helmets in the field (that means with earflaps). At least the pitcher should wear a batting helmet, while the infielders could wear the base coach helmets (the ones without earflaps) to avoid getting hit in the head by bad hops. This would be to avoid the catastrophic injury that happened to this pitcher in New Jersey:


I would also recommend the Heart Guard baseball device that protects the heart for young players. There are cases every year where a baseball strikes a kid during a certain time of the heartbeat and can cause cardiac arrest. And Little Leaguers are more susceptible than adults to this injury.

And the Little League organizations should work, if they are not already, to reduce the trampoline effect of these aluminum baseball bats.

I know many would consider all of these recommendations as one of a killjoy. But the most important thing is the safety of the kids, and not who wins (in the grand scheme of life) these meaningless baseball games.