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A Mound of Advice for Youthful Batters

Spring baseball means a host of safety steps

SUNDAY, April 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Spring means the crack of bats will soon echo over baseball fields across the country as youth leagues start their season.

Young players get so excited about playing the game that they may not bother to think about health and safety considerations. So coaches and parents have to do their best to ensure the youngsters avoid injury.

Temple University Hospital offers some advice on ways to protect young ballplayers.

Remember that children aren't miniature adults and shouldn't be treated as such. Children's bodies can't withstand the same amount of physical stress that can be endured by adult bodies. Children are still growing and their bodies are more susceptible to injury.

Young ballplayers need to stretch the muscles they'll use playing baseball. For example, if a child is pitching, he or she should focus on stretches for the arm and back muscles. Catchers need to stretch leg and back muscles.

A good warm-up is essential. It can be light calisthenics or a short jog. A warm-up raises the body's core temperature and prepares all the muscles for physical activity.

Never encourage a child to play through pain. Pain is a warning sign of an injury, and ignoring it can cause greater injury.

Limited motion and swelling with pain are two especially important injury signs in children. It may mean the child has a more serious injury than first suspected.

Rest is an important therapy for treating youth sport injuries and can help lead to fast healing.

Children who play on more than one team are at higher risk for overuse injuries. These injuries are caused by repetitive stress on the same part of the body over and over again.

Remember that injuries that look like sprains in adults can be fractures in children. Youngsters can be more susceptible to fractures because their bones are still growing.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also has some safety advice.

Proper safety gear is essential and must be the right size and worn correctly. Players should wear a batting helmet when at bat, when waiting their turn at bat, and when running bases. There are facial protection devices that can be fitted to batting helmets.

Catchers must wear a helmet, face mask, throat guard, long-style chest protector, protective supporter, and shin guards, and use a proper catcher's mitt.

Young players should wear molded, cleated baseball shoes and not shoes with steel spikes.

Parents and coaches should do a pre-game inspection of the playing field and remove glass and other debris and fill in holes.

More information

You can learn more about youth baseball conditioning at USA Baseball.

SOURCES: Temple University Hospital; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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