May 29 (HealthDay News) -- The number of children and teens who required emergency department treatment for baseball injuries in the United States decreased 25 percent from 1994 to 2006, from an estimated 147,000 injuries to about 111,000 injuries, according to a new study.
Greater use of protective equipment may be one reason for the decline in injuries, the study authors suggested, saying theirs is the first national study of its kind.
The researchers found that being hit with a baseball was the most common cause of injury (46 percent), followed by being hit with a bat (25 percent). Soft tissue injuries (34 percent) and fractures and dislocations (20 percent) were the most common types of injuries, and the parts of the body most often injured were the face (34 percent) and the upper extremities (32 percent).
"Although baseball injuries have declined, the consistently high numbers of injuries requiring emergency treatment highlight the importance of increasing our prevention efforts," study co-author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio, said in a hospital news release.
"Safety equipment such as age-appropriate breakaway bases, helmets with properly-fitted face shields, mouth guards and reduced-impact safety baseballs have all been shown to reduce injuries," said Smith, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.
"As more youth leagues, coaches and parents ensure the use of these types of safety equipment in both practices and games, the number of baseball-related injuries should continue to decrease. Mouth guards, in particular, should be more widely used in youth baseball," he concluded.
The study was published online in June issue of the journal Pediatrics.
It's estimated that more than 19 million American children and teens play baseball on teams or in backyards, according to the study.
SOURCE: Nationwide Children's Hospital, news release, May 26, 2009