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When they think about high-contact sports — which have a higher risk of injury — most people think of sports like football, rugby, hockey, or soccer. By comparison, baseball and softball seem like relatively safe sports.
But even though baseball and softball are not considered "contact" sports, they are associated with a large number of injuries. Hospital emergency departments treat more than 95,000 baseball-related injuries and 30,000 softball-related injuries among players under age 15 each year.
The number of injuries among adults is also high, with as many as 8 percent of players sustaining injuries each year.
"Any injury to a young player should be taken seriously," says Kathy Weber, MD, MS, a sports medicine physician at Rush University Medical Center. "Some injuries can lead to more serious or chronic issues if you don't get treated right away, or send the child back onto the field too soon."
Weber offers parents and guardians these tips to help their young ballplayers in the game (Note: These tips apply to adults, too.):
The bottom line: Listen to your child. Do not ignore pain — if they say it hurts and it affects their game, have it checked out. Usually, the earlier we detect a problem, the faster we can return the athlete to competition.
Besides more obvious signs of serious injury, like blood or broken and misaligned joints and bones, one way to determine if an injury is serious is if there is persistent pain.
Commonly missed injuries that usually present as chronic pain and can be potentially career-damaging include:
"The bottom line: Listen to your child," says Bruene. "Do not ignore pain — if they say it hurts and it affects their game, have it checked out. Usually, the earlier we detect a problem, the faster we can return the athlete to competition."
It helps to wait before returning to the field. "A basic rule of thumb is that an injured athlete — child, teen or adult — can return to play when they have full, pain-free range of motion and at least 85 percent of full strength," says Weber.
When it comes to concussion, Weber recommends proceeding with caution. If a child goes back on the field before fully recovering from a concussion, getting another concussion can have devastating effects.
"In terms of head injuries, the child must have returned to baseline mental status and be completely symptom-free before playing again," she says. "Another caveat would be that they pose no further risk of serious injury to themselves or others by playing."
Another important way to prevent injuries is to have good fitness and health habits.
"It's important that young athletes maintain their cardiovascular fitness in the off-season so they are in great shape to hit the season running," says Bruene. "This is especially important in baseball and softball, which are not as aerobically challenging as other sports such as soccer or basketball."
To maintain fitness, Bruene recommends the following:
Consult your child's physician or a sports medicine specialist for more information about keeping your young athlete safe and healthy.
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