When school lets out, Little League Baseball season being in earnest and with that comes a common rash of injuries that, thankfully, are not usually too severe. However, any active sport can result in spontaneous mishaps. Players running across a base can step on the foot, ankle and even hand of the defensive player. Twisted ankles are common and more serious events, like concussions and heat stroke, are not unheard of.
Baseball is certainly a charming sport, but it’s all the more enjoyable when players don’t get hurt. And, certainly, we encourage children to play hard and “give it their all.” In return, grownups can do what they can to make the play as safe as possible. The basic compromise here is to maximize prevention in order to maximize a healthy, safe day at the baseball diamond.
Since we can anticipate various injuries, it is wise to do what we can to prevent them and to supply first aid treatment when they occur. It is wise to keep ice or a modern cold pack on hand in case of sprains and, if possible, a source of warmth to mitigate muscle pain. There should be plenty of cool drinks on hand to prevent dehydration and heat stroke. Parents and players should also be aware that the best prevention for heat-related problems is to drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before stepping onto the field.
A first aid kit should include suntan lotion, bandages for routine scrapes and cuts and soothing, over-the-counter ointments like hydrocortisone or calendula to treat insect bites and stings. If any players are allergic to stings, parents should participate in keeping the appropriate medications on hand in case a child is bitten or stung.
A well-stocked first aid kit also includes adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, soap, scissors, and a wound cleansing solution. If possible, a blanket and a cardiac defibrillator should be on hand if not for a player, for an elderly fan who may need one. Access to running water is also recommended.
Coaches should also have emergency phone numbers and contacts readily available. Common emergencies include concussions, always possible when two players collide trying to catch a ball or while running the base paths, and trouble breathing. Allergic reactions can cause shortness of breath. Children with asthma should also be prepared in the event of an asthma attack.
While there is always the chance of a sudden injury, baseball players are also prone to over-use injuries. This tends to not happen to younger players, but coaches and parents are still wise to start children off on the right foot, teaching proper stretching routines for before and after practice or games. It is advised that players under a certain age (usually 10) be prohibited from sliding into a base, but at some point, proper sliding techniques need to be taught. Players should also be instructed on the rules of play that prevent collisions on the base paths. Defensive players should be taught to call out when they are looking to catch a ball over their heads to avoid two players concentrating on the ball from accidentally running into each other.
Young pitchers should also learn the proper way to throw a ball in order to minimize the risk of over-throwing injuries. Pitchers develop sore muscles on a routine basis, but they should also be wary of long-term wear and tear damage to ligaments and bones. Major League Baseball and Little League Baseball have joined forces to promote a Pitch Smart program to teach proper techniques and to recognize limits for younger pitchers. Under their guidelines, pitchers age 7-8 are limited to 50 pitches per game. This increases gradually before peaking at 120 pitches per game allowed for players aged 19-22.