March 14, 2023
New York’s baseball and softball fields will soon fill with children firing off fast balls and sliding into bases.
And straining shoulders, spraining ankles, and breaking noses, too.
Emergency rooms treat more than 120,000 baseball and softball injuries annually, researchers say. But many can be prevented with a few safety measures. Likewise, quick medical attention can save kids from lasting pain and damage, says Dr. Lynda Gerberg, Lead Pediatrician, Cohen Children’s NorthwellHealth-GoHealth Urgent Care.
“Young athletes are still growing and learning how to use their bodies, and they’re vulnerable to injuries,” says Gerberg. “Kids who are limping or who take a bat or ball to the face need medical attention right away to diagnose and treat serious injuries like concussions, broken bones, or dislocations.”
Start the season safelyParents can set their sluggers up for success with a sports physical before the start of the season. These appointments can identify life-threatening health problems that could be worsened by participating in a sport, according to the Texas A&M College of Medicine.
“Sports physicals are an opportunity to review your child’s medical history, check their vital signs and heart and lung function. I look at their joints and ask if they seem excessively tired by exercise, have ever had a concussion, or have asthma,” says Gerberg.
Get good gearOnce a provider clears your child to play, outfit them with gear that fits well. A pair of sturdy shoes is essential. They should have a snug heel, roomy toe box, good traction, a flexible sole, and ankle support and coverage. Molded cleats are safer than spikes. Check with your child’s coach to make sure the cleatsyou’re buying meet the league’s safety standards.
Players should bring a batting helmet to every practice, according to Little League University. Parents should buy helmets approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. Some leagues offer team helmets.
Catchers will need extra gear, including a catcher’s mitt, face mask, throat guard, chest protector and shin guards. Boys who catch will also need a protective cup.
Send your kids to practice with good sleep, a balanced diet and plenty of water.
Watch out for form, fatigue and speedMake sure your child’s coach understands basic safety protocols. Parents and coaches should remind players often to wear a helmet when on deck, at bat, and running the bases.
Some youth baseball coaches follow the “bats and hats” rule and require athletes to wear their helmet every time they pick up a bat. They may tell players to follow more safe batting rules, such as:
• Swing a bat during practice only after ensuring no one is behind you and with a coach’s permission.
• Pick up bats with both hands by the barrel to avoid swinging them by mistake.Leave ample space between batters during practice. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that children wait until they’re 10 to slide.
They also recommend:
• Using breakaway bases.
• Teaching and following the “obstruction” rule. This means the fielding player cannot obstruct the path of the runner.
• Using “double bags” or a separate bag for the runner and the first baseman.
Both baseball and softball players can sustain overuse injuries caused by pitching. Softball pitchers throw underarm and tend to injure their shoulders, according to researchers. Baseball pitchers tend to injure their elbows more often. Kids who pitch hard and fast at a young age are at greater risk of injurybecause ligaments and tendons aren’t ready for this activity.
Coaches should watch pitch counts and pitch types to prevent overuse injuries. They should also limit the number of innings a child pitches each week and require pitchers to rest between games to avoid fatigue.
Take quick action to prevent lasting injuriesIf an injury does occur, follow the P.R.I.C.E. protocol– Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Seek immediate attention for any child who is experiencing swelling, loss of normal function or deformities.Quick action can help athletes return to the field faster and safer, says Dr. Gerberg.
Community support enhances player safetyNorthwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care sponsors Little Leagues like Huntington Tri-Village Little League across New York. Their support has allowed 207,000 kids to play since 2020 via scholarships. Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care’s sponsorships also enhance player safety, with leagues using funds tomaintain fields and provide proper equipment.
Baseball and softball support physical and emotional development and build community. But the reality is: injuries happen. Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care operates 56 conveniently located centers across New York so parents don’t have to travel far to be seen by a great provider if an injury does occur. Because Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care is integrated the vast network of Northwell Health, referrals to specialists like orthopedists are seamless when necessary.