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Common Baseball Injuries

Introduction

Injuries in baseball have continued to receive attention from the media and the community. While the risk of catastrophic injury in baseball is rare, other less severe injuries have a more common occurrence, even among young players. These injuries are often understood. However, there is significant attention focused on chronic and overuse injuries occurring in the sport of baseball across all age groups. There are many injuries that a baseball player may experience and various mechanisms for how these injuries can occur. We can use both current injury surveillance data (incidence and prevalence) and insurance claims data (relative frequency) to better understand injury patterns and occurrences that happen in the sport of baseball.

Injury Patterns

Currently in youth baseball, there is no true surveillance mechanism to reliably and validly track injuries among these young players. Many organizations, however, provide accident insurance for their member teams and the reported injury claims can be used to understand patterns of injury in youth baseball. Using these data we can examine patterns using the relative frequency of injury among youth. Over the past 10 years, surveillance of high school baseball injuries has dramatically improved. The following outlines some of the most common injury patterns among youth and high school baseball players.

Youth

For youth baseball injuries, because there is no overall surveillance mechanism to capture exposure, these data are presented as relative frequencies of injuries that have occurred between January 1994 and February 2015. The youth data provided are from accident insurance claims data broken out into two age categories: ages 5-12 and ages 13-19. These data may reflect more severe injuries as they are from accident claims data, but do describe patterns of injury occurring in youth baseball. These data do not include exposure to risk of injury or overall injury prevalence out of all participants over the course of a season.

  1. For ages 5-12, the leading activities engaged in while injured in order of frequency include fielding batted ball, catching thrown ball, batting, sliding, running and catching pitched ball.
  2. For ages 13-19, the leading activities engaged in while injured in order of frequency include fielding batted ball, sliding, batting, catching thrown ball, running and pitching.
  3. For ages 5-12, the most common injury types in order of frequency are fracture, bruise/contusion, joint sprain/strain, dental, cut/scrape and concussion. 
  4. For ages 13-19, the most common injury types in order of frequency are fracture, bruise/contusion, joint sprain/strain, cut/scrape, dental and dislocation.
  5. For both age groups, the most common locations of injury occurrence in order of frequency are infield, home plate and outfield.
  6. For both age groups, injuries were more common in games than in practices.

In addition to the claims data, literature around throwing related injuries among youth has also suggested that a much greater percentage of youth baseball pitchers are suffering chronic, overuse injuries and having surgery.

High School

The high school baseball injury data presented here are a summary of the most recent injury pattern data available through high school injury surveillance systems. As exposure to risk is captured in these types of studies, we are able to estimate incidence rate (how many injuries occur per so many exposures to injury risk) and prevalence (what proportion of the population suffers an injury).

  1. In general, the overall injury rate (how many injuries per exposure to a risk in baseball) is relatively low in high school baseball compared to other sports.
  2. A slightly higher percentage of injuries in high school baseball occur among position players compared to pitchers; however, many position players also pitch across a baseball season,
  3. The shoulder and the elbow are the most commonly injured body parts.
  4. Shoulder injuries are more common in the earlier parts of the season than in the later part of the season.
  5. Elbow injuries are more common toward the end of the season.
  6. The most common injury types are ligament sprains and muscle strains
  7. Most injuries in high school baseball are considered mild (< 7 days lost to participation); however, approximately 10 percent of injuries in baseball require surgery and/or result in medical disqualification for a season.
  8. Although rare, injuries resulting from being hit by a batted ball are more likely to result in surgery.

Conclusions

Many baseball injuries are due to overuse of the throwing arm. Limited throwing activities, especially among pitchers may aid in decreasing the relative frequency and occurrence of these types of injuries. In addition, catastrophic events are rare in baseball, but the two most common types of catastrophic injuries result from being struck by a batted ball or being hit by a thrown ball. However, these injuries are more common among younger age groups where skill development may be an issue. There are many valid resources for aiding parents, coaches, and players in injury prevention including education programs, pitch count limits, and training programs that may aid in preventing injuries in baseball, these can be found through the PlayBall and Pitch Smart web sites.

References

Sadler Insurance. Sadler Sports Insurance Accident Claims for Dixie Youth Baseball, Inc. and Dixie Boys Baseball, Inc. January 1994 to February 2015.

Fleisig GS, Andrews JR. Prevention of elbow injuries in youth baseball pitchers. Sports Health. Sep 2012;4(5):419-424.

Collins CL, Comstock RD. Epidemiological features of high school baseball injuries in the United States, 2005-2007. Pediatrics. Jun 2008;121(6):1181-1187.

Shanley E, Rauh MJ, Michener LA, Ellenbecker TS. Incidence of injuries in high school softball and baseball players. J Athl Train. Nov-Dec 2011;46(6):648-654.