Almost all high school baseball players should wear headgear on the field to protect them from injuries from batted balls, and most players should consider wearing mouth guards to help prevent oral injuries. Those recommendations and others are the result of new injury research published in a recent edition of the medical journal Pediatrics — the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Nearly 500,000 males play baseball at U.S. high schools each year, according to the researchers. (High school females typically play softball.) Their study examined the results of a survey of injuries in athletic programs at 100 high schools across the country, from 2005 to 2007.
A total of 431 baseball injuries were reported for every 341,000 "athletic exposures" — each defined as one athlete playing in a practice or game — resulting in a rate of 1.26 injuries per 1,000 exposures.
The shoulder was the most commonly injured body part (18% of injuries), followed by the ankle (14%) and the head or face (12%). Fifty of those injuries studied were caused when players were hit by batted balls. Nearly two-thirds of those balls impacted the head or mouth. Nearly one in five batted ball injuries required surgery, the study revealed.
Based on their findings, the study authors recommend that pitchers, batters and infielders wear helmets with face shields. Players should also wear mouth guards to protect their teeth — particularly pitchers.
Authors of the study advise that children should begin using protective equipment for the head and face early on, beginning with T-ball, so it will be second nature to use appropriate protective devices by the time they reach high school and college.
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