Baseball has been around in the United States since the late 19th century, and so have baseball injuries. Youth and adult baseball and softball players, both male and female, are subject to the scrapes, bruises and occasional beaning with a fast ball that come with playing America's favorite pass time. While baseball injuries are usually minor, the high speeds at which the ball travels can cause serious and even fatal injuries.
The Relative Danger of Baseball
Most sports injuries occur in children ages five to 14. More than 775,000 children in this age group end up in the emergency room every year from a sports related injury. Of this group of young athletes, nearly 110,000, around 14 percent, were treated for baseball related injuries. While nearly twice as many children are injured playing football and bicycling, baseball has the highest number of fatalities for children five through 14 years old. Three to four children in this age range die every year from a baseball related injury, most commonly from brain injuries.
How Often it Hurts
Not all injuries land the athlete in the emergency room, since many minor injuries can be treated on location or at home. Of all injuries, both major and minor, 25 percent of all sports injuries for children ages five through 14 were incurred by baseball players. But baseball injuries are not isolated to children. Between 2002 and 2008, an average of around 439 Major League Baseball players were placed on the disabled list each year. Also, injuries are not equally distributed between each position. Pitchers experienced 34 percent more injuries than their outfield counterparts during this six year period. Furthermore, injuries are more common earlier in the season when players tend to be more out of shape and training is more sloppy than at the end of the season when skills are more refined and players are at the peak of their game.
A Variety of Pain
The majority of injuries in professional baseball that land players on the disabled list, around 51 percent, are injuries sustained to the upper extremities. Lower extremity injuries account for around 30 percent of professional baseball injuries while nearly 12 percent of injuries are sustained by the spine and core muscles. Other, unspecified injuries account for about six percent of all professional baseball injuries. The position played also weighs in on the type of injury most commonly sustained. Pitchers generally experience injuries to the upper extremities while outfielders most often have lower extremity injuries. Also, since the year 2000, the number of serious shoulder and elblow injuries among youth baseball and softball players has increased fivefold, particularly among pitchers. While there is no official statistic on the number of batters who have been hit with the ball by the pitcher, minor injuries occur from these types of accidents every year, which is why batting helmets became mandatory in professional baseball in 1971.
Playing It Safe
Most youth injuries, around 62 percent, occur during practice. This is partially because parents fail have their children take the same precautions during practice that they would during a game. If players use the same focus, concentration and safety awareness during practice as they would during games, this number can drop. Since about half of sports injuries are overuse injuries, the best way to prevent many baseball injuries is to monitor your body and train accordingly. Warming up properly, rotating positions, resting during the off-season, developing skills that are age appropriate and taking days off from playing will help prevent the strains, pulls and tears that occur from over training. Wearing proper equipment during practices and games, such as batting helmets, pads for the catcher, and properly fitting mitts and cleats will also help reduce the occurrence of baseball injuries. Furthermore, learning proper form when throwing, catching and sliding can prevent scratches, bruising and sprains when playing baseball.