Don’t Strike Out When It Comes to Baseball Safety

With little league in full swing, parents have been stepping up to the plate to ask me if I have any safety tips for preventing baseball injuries this spring and summer.  Let me see if I can hit a few tips out of the park.

Emergency rooms see more than 100,000 baseball and softball injuries to kids under the age of 15 each year. Many of these are to the ankle and knee, though eye injuries are also common. 

To prevent your child from becoming a little league injury statistic, make sure your child has all the required safety gear every time he or she plays or practices. This means a helmet and face guard, as well as mouth guard for batting or running the bases. If your child is a catcher, they will also need a face mask, chest and throat protector, and shin guards. All guys should wear a cup or athletic supporter.  Children who wear glasses should wear protective lenses as well.

Before playing all children should do two things: warm up by stretching to prevent muscle strain injuries and walk around the field to remove debris and rocks, or fill holes that kids can trip over or fall into. 

If your child is a pitcher, talk to the coaches about the maximum number of pitches that can be thrown each week to prevent overuse and injury to the shoulder and elbow. Make sure the coach and your child adhere to that limit.

Breakaway bases that detach when someone slides into them should be used to prevent many ankle and knee injuries. Sliding should not occur headfirst.

All players on or off the field should be paying attention to what is happening at all times to avoid being hit by a fair or foul ball. And don’t forget to make sure your ballplayer wears sunscreen when out on the field.

Finally coaches should put the emphasis on fun and fundamentals rather than winning at all costs, which can lead to a higher chance of injury.  

Hopefully, tips like this will hit a home run and not allow you to make an error when it comes to keeping your child out of injury trouble when they play ball this summer. 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.