February 27th, 2012
10:54 AM ET
Break out the bats, balls and gloves! For millions of children, spring is the much-awaited start to baseball and softball season. And in order to ensure fun is had by all, the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking parents, coaches, pediatricians and the players themselves to take proper safety precautions.
In 2007, statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) showed an estimated 109,202 emergency room injuries in kids ages 5 to 14 related to softball and baseball. Many involved the head, face or fingers, wrists and hands.
Though extremely infrequent, the CPSC says 88 baseball-related deaths occurred in the years between 1973 and 1995 - that’s approximately four deaths per year. The most common causes were direct-ball impact with the chest or head; other causes included contact with the bat or ball.
“We really want parents, coaches and athletes to be aware that at every single baseball game, before a game starts, somebody needs to be aware of how to activate the emergency medical system,” he said. “Have a cell phone ready to activate 911 in case of any emergency.”
Timely access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) is critical.
“We’re not at the stage where you would be able to have an AED at every baseball diamond where kids play,” he said. “But there should be emergency squad cars there that could be activated by calling 911. The sooner 911 is called, the sooner the AED could get there, and the heart be restarted."
The AAP says under three minutes is the ideal time frame for one of these devices to be at the side of the player.
The statement authors also looked at advances both in equipment and in technology since the guidelines were last updated over 10 years ago. They designed the recommendations to improve safety and reduce the risk of injuries in players ages 5 to 18.
“There are just a few things though that parents and coaches should pay attention to (in order) to make sure that we keep it a safe game,” Congeni added.
Among the recommendations:
-Evidence regarding heart guards or chest protectors is not sufficient to say they are helpful in preventing kids from having this life-threatening condition.
-A low-impact ball should be used in children under 10 or by those with the lowest skill level.
-Coaches and officials need to be aware of heat, sun and lightning and cancel or delay games if necessary.
-Officials, parents, coaches and umpires need to be knowledgeable about recognizing and responding to concussions.
-Everyone, including players, needs to be aware of overuse injuries and respect pitch counts and rest periods.
-Athletes should stop pitching immediately if their arm is sore or in pain.
-Players should wear polycarbonate eye protection or metal cages on helmets when batting.
That said, the AAP still recommends that pediatricians encourage children ages 5 to 18 to participate in baseball and softball.
“It’s a relatively safe sport, so parents can feel pretty good about their kids learning at a young age,” Congeni said.
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