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Baseball: Is It as Safe as It Should Be?

More children are killed playing baseball than any other sport. It is estimated that this year 150,000 children will be treated in an emergency room for baseball-related injuries. Children’s safety advocates are now suggesting ways to make our national pastime safer for our children.

For example, baseball is the leading cause of eye injuries among children engaged in recreational activities. Face guards or shields can prevent up to 95% of serious eye as well as facial injuries. Two types of face guards are available — one uses welded wire gridding to protect the face and the other uses lightweight, impact-resistant polycarbonate. Sports safety consultants now recommend that batters and runners always wear face guards. Pitchers and infielders who may not be able to avoid a hard-hit ball should at least wear eye guards.

Being struck in the chest by a baseball is the leading cause of death for young ballplayers. This trauma to the chest can cause the heart to stop, or go into irreversible ventricular fibrillation, either of which stops the player from breathing. Chest pads can protect the heart by distributing the force of impact over a larger area of the chest. Although pitchers, batters, and catchers are at the greatest risk for chest impact deaths, investigators for the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend that some type of chest protection be worn by all children who play organized baseball.

Replacing traditional hard baseballs with “safety” balls can also prevent head and facial injuries, or lessen their severity. Safety balls have a polyurethane center which allows them to compress more upon impact. Traditional balls have at least an 85% chance of causing a serious head injury when traveling 60 m.p.h. Depending upon the type, safety balls present a 5-10% risk of serious head injury when they strike the head at 60 m.p.h.

Finally, one-third of all leg injuries occur when a runner slides in and strikes an anchored base. It’s estimated that quick-release or breakaway bases can reduce sliding injuries by 96% and the cost of their treatment by 99%.

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