Jan 29, 2015
Baseball and Softball Injury Analysis

By Dawn Comstock

Contributor Dawn Comstock, PhD, from The Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital again gives T&C readers an inside look at her recent studies of high school athletics injuries. In this blog, Comstock takes a look at injury rates and trends for high school baseball and softball players.

Spring brings warmer weather, longer days, and renewed opportunities to get outside and play. Soon, hundreds of thousands of children, adolescents, and young adults will grab mitts and bats and take to their local baseball and softball fields. Whether playing for a school team or hitting balls with friends, baseball and softball are great forms of physical activity. Though both have relatively low injury rates, there are still thousands of preventable injuries occurring every year.

The National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, currently in its third year of data collection, has found that high school baseball and softball programs each result in over 60,000 injuries annually. On average, baseball and softball players sustain 1 injury for every 800 times they take to the practice or game field.

Although this rate is much lower when compared to sports such as football, soccer, and basketball, the injuries sustained by baseball and softball players can be quite serious. In both sports, one in 10 injuries results in medical disqualification for the season. In baseball, one in 10 injuries require surgery; in softball, this number is one in 22.

Following is a brief description of the most common injuries and diagnoses in baseball and softball. Although injury diagnoses are similar, we can see that baseball injuries are more likely to be to the head/face while softball injuries are more likely to be to the knee.

Most common injury diagnoses:

Baseball • Incomplete ligament sprains (1 in 5 injuries) • Incomplete muscle strains (1 in 5 injuries) • Contusions (1 in 6 injuries) • Fractures (1 in 7 injuries)

Softball • Incomplete ligament sprains (1 in 4 injuries) • Incomplete muscle strains (1 in 6 injuries) • Contusions (1 in 7 injuries) • Fractures (1 in 6 injuries)

Most commonly injured body sites:

Baseball • Shoulder (1 in 6 injuries) • Ankle (1 in 7 injuries) • Hand/finger (1 in 12 injuries) • Head/face (1 in 8 injuries)

Softball • Shoulder (1 in 10 injuries) • Ankle (1 in 6 injuries) • Hand/finger (1 in 10 injuries) • Knee (1 in 8 injuries)

The most common mechanism leading to baseball and softball injuries was being hit by the ball (including thrown balls, pitches, and batted balls). In baseball, being hit by the ball accounted for one in five injuries; in softball, it was one in four injuries. Other commonly stated mechanisms were throwing the ball (one in five baseball injuries; one in seven softball injuries) and contact with bases (one in eight baseball injuries; one in seven softball injuries). Home plate was the most common location for baseball (one in five) and softball (one in four) injuries. In both sports, injuries resulting from being hit by a batted ball were usually to the face and were more likely to result in surgery when compared to injuries resulting from other mechanisms.

Coaches and athletic trainers working with baseball and softball teams should be aware that although injuries are relatively infrequent–likely due in part to their work in keeping athletes well-conditioned for these sports–traumatic injuries do occur. Because serious injuries often result from being hit by the ball, prevention efforts should focus on getting baseball and softball players to wear protective gear such as mouthguards or helmets with facial shields. Also, because contact with bases results in a large number of injuries, athletic directors should evaluate whether new technologies, such as breakaway bases, could be used on their fields.

Dawn Comstock, PhD, is a principle investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is also an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University in the College of Medicine and the College of Public Health. Her research interests include the epidemiology of sports, recreation, and leisure activity-related injuries among children and adolescents as well as the life-long health benefits associated with an active childhood. She can be reached at [email protected].

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