Keep your Sluggers Safe

How to prevent common injuries this baseball season

As a pediatrician working in the Bay Area, I see a lot of strained shoulders and sprained ankles this time of year.

In fact, youth baseball and softball caused 1.4 million injuries over the last decade.

But your kids can leave Little League shoulder and other common injuries on the bench by following a few safety measures. And parents can also play a part in protecting their little sluggers.

Start the season safely

First, take your child to the doctor for a physical exam. Dignity-GoHealth Urgent Care offers quick and easy sports physical appointments. 

Once your child is cleared to play, outfit them with gear that fits well. A pair of sturdy shoes is essential. Molded cleats are safer than spikes; check with your child’s coach to make sure the cleats you’re buying meet the league’s safety standards.

Impress upon your child the importance of wearing a helmet when on deck, at bat, and running the bases. The Emergency Medical Services Authority (“EMSA”) recommends helmets that protect the eyes with safety goggles or face guards.

Catchers will need extra gear, including a catcher’s mitt, face mask, throat guard, chest protector and shin guards. Boys who catch will also need a protective cup. Leagues often provide this gear; confirm this with your child’s coach before practice begins.

Send your kids to practice with good sleep, a balanced diet and plenty of water.

Practice proper technique

Consider volunteering at practice to help teach players the basics of baseball safety. Coaches are stretched thin and will undoubtedly appreciate extra sets of eyes and ears on the practice field. If volunteering won’t work for your schedule, offer to help stock the team’s first aid kit.

Work with your kids’ coaches and umpires to ensure everyone understands safety and injury protocols. Topics to cover include bat safety, helmet use, sliding techniques, radar guns, and poor mechanics. 

Children should use proper body mechanics and techniques. Help your child’s coach monitor pitch counts and types to prevent overuse injuries. Ask your coach if they limit the number of innings a child pitches each week and require pitchers to rest between pitches. Both can prevent chronic elbow pain.

Look for coaches to teach proper sliding technique to minimize the risk of foot and ankle injuries for base runners. EMSA also recommends that parents encourage their league to use breakaway bases that detach when someone slides into them.

Young players should not slide headfirst, and children should learn how to dodge a bad pitch.

Remind your players to warm up before practice and properly stretch after. Reinforce the importance of safety with conversations at home.

Take quick action to prevent lasting injuries

Not every injury can be prevented. Ensure your kids understand the difference between soreness and pain. If an injury does occur, remember P.R.I.C.E. – Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. See a physician immediately for swelling, loss of normal function or deformities. Remember that quick action can help athletes return to the field faster and safer. 

Community support enhances player safety

Dignity-GoHealth wants kids to have fun and stay safe as they learn baseball and softball. That’s why we sponsor Little Leagues across the Bay Area. Our support has allowed 207,000 kids to play since 2020 via scholarships. Importantly, our sponsorship also enhances player safety, with leagues using funds to maintain fields and provide proper equipment. 

Baseball and softball support physical and emotional development and build community. But injuries do happen. We operate 14 centers in convenient locations across the Bay Area so children can get quick medical attention if an injury does occur. Because we are integrated with Dignity Health, referrals to specialists like orthopedists are seamless when necessary. For more information, visit gohealthuc.com/dignity.

Have a fun and safe season!

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