Parents & Teachers


Baseball And Softball Injuries

In the United States, more than 33 million people participate in organized baseball and softball leagues. Nearly 6 million of these players are 5 to 14 years old. Even though these sports are not considered contact sports, they are associated with a large number of injuries. Hospital emergency departments treat more than 95,000 baseball-related injuries and 30,000 softball-related injuries among players under age 15 each year. The number of injuries among adults is also high, with as many as 8 percent of players sustaining injuries each year.

The majority of injuries in baseball and softball are minor, consisting mostly of abrasions (scrapes), sprains, strains, and fractures. Many of these injuries are to the ankle and knee. Eye injuries are also common in baseball. In fact, baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in children. Why are eye injuries common? Because the ball or bat hits them in the eye? Catastrophic injuries in baseball and softball are rare. They occur most often when players are struck in the head or chest with a ball or a bat. On average, 3 children under age 15 die each year from baseball-related injuries.

Baseball can lead to injuries caused by overusing a certain body part. Pitchers commonly suffer overuse injuries in their elbows or shoulders. As many as 45 percent of pitchers under age 12 have chronic elbow pain, and among high school pitchers, the percentage rises to 58 percent. To prevent these injuries, Little League Baseball, Inc., has set a limit of six innings of pitching per week and requires pitchers to rest between appearances. Teaching proper pitching mechanics can also prevent serious overuse injuries.

Helmets and safety equipment for catchers have brought about reductions in injuries. Little League Rule 1.7 says, "A Catcher's helmet must meet NOCSAE specifications and standards." Other safety gear has been added more recently, including eye protectors and facemasks on helmets. Chest protectors and softer balls are also being studied for their protective effect.

Making changes to the playing field and the rules of the game can also prevent injuries. Sliding into the base causes more than 70 percent of recreational softball injuries and nearly one-third of baseball injuries. Using bases that break away upon impact can prevent 1.7 million injuries per year. Adding screens or fencing to the dugout and eliminating the on-deck circle protects players from wild pitches, foul balls, and flying bats.

Basketball Injuries

Basketball is a popular sport, especially among children and young adults. But the sport carries a risk for injury, whether played in an organized league or with friends on a local park court. More than 200,000 young people under age 15 are treated in hospital emergency departments each year for basketball-related injuries. This makes basketball the fourth leading cause of injury in both unorganized settings and organized community team sports.

Injuries to basketball players are usually minor, mostly sprains and strains. The ankle and knee are the most common sites of injury, followed by the lower back, hand, and wrist. Eye injuries also occur frequently, as a result of being hit with fingers or elbows.

At the high school and recreational levels, injuries occur more frequently during practice; college players are injured more often during games. Girls and women appear to have a higher rate of injury than boys and men. And many of the injuries female players sustain are more serious than those of their male counterparts (e.g., knee injuries).

Football Injuries

Studies have shown that 15 to 20 percent of players age 8 to 14 are injured during the football season. More than 150,000 football players under age 15 are treated in hospital emergency departments each year. Among tackle football players on high school teams, the injury rate has been reported as high as 64 percent.

Sprains and strains are the most frequent injuries among players of all age groups. For young children, injuries to the arms, hands, and shoulders are most common; older players most often injure the lower extremities. Knee injuries, which total approximately 92,000 each year, often lead to chronic knee pain.

Concussions make up about 5 percent of reported football injuries. A player who has sustained a concussion is four to six times more likely to sustain another one, and getting a second brain injury before the first one has healed can prove fatal. As seen in the boxing profession, repeated concussions sustained over a long period of time can lead to serious impairments.

All football leagues, from Pop Warner to professional, require safety equipment and prohibit tackling from behind and "spearing" (using the top of the helmet to tackle). Before these safety measures were in place, many more football players sustained disabling injuries. These measures have also reduced deaths among football players by more than 75 percent.

Gymnastics Injuries

In the U.S., more than 600,000 children take part in school-sponsored and club-level gymnastics competitions. Some gymnasts start training at an early age (as young as 4 or 5 years old) and practice for several hours each day. With the high physical demands of gymnastics--and the increasing levels of difficulty--comes a high risk of injury. In a study of high school athletes, gymnastics was the fourth leading cause of injury, with an injury rate of 56 percent. Club gymnastics programs had a rate of injury as high as 22 percent.

The majority of gymnastics-related injuries are mild to moderate, with sprains, strains, and stress fractures being most common. Ankles and knees are the most frequent sites of injury, typically resulting from landings and dismounts. Injuries to the lower back are also common. Although acute injuries are rarely severe, as many as half of all injuries lead to chronic pain, and bone fractures in young athletes can cause long-term physical problems.

Floor exercises are the most common cause of injury, due to the large number of bends, twists, and landings required in those routines. Other factors that increase the risk of injury are trying moves that are too complicated for one's skill level, not using safety harnesses or spotters, getting over-tired, and spending long hours practicing.

Of special concern among female gymnasts is improper diet and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The emphasis on a slender physique can lead some female gymnasts to lower their food intake so much that they deprive their bodies of essential nutrients. Studies have found that these athletes have lower bone density and a greater incidence of stress fractures.

Ice Hockey Injuries

More than 500,000 amateur athletes in the U.S. play ice hockey, a game that carries significant risk of injury for players of all ages. Ice hockey is the second leading cause of winter sports injury among children.

The most common types of injuries are sprains and contusions (bruises) to the thigh, knee, and ankle. Lower extremity injuries account for about one-third of the injuries in ice hockey. A high rate of facial lacerations and head injuries (including concussions) is also associated with this sport. Cases of paralysis and death resulting from head and spinal cord injuries have been reported, but these catastrophic injuries are rare.

Body checking is the most commonly reported cause of injury and is associated with the more severe injuries. Many of the players injured by body checking collide with goal posts and boards. Contact between opponents, usually in the form of body checking, is associated with 46 percent of all minor injuries and 75 percent of major injuries.

Safety gear and changes in the rules of play have significantly reduced both the number and severity of injuries related to ice hockey. Many head injuries have been prevented by the use of helmets and the elimination of body checking. A reduction in eye injuries has occurred through the addition of full-face guards on helmets and the stricter enforcement of penalties for "high sticking." Neck guards have reduced the number of both soft tissue and spinal injuries. Currently, most youth leagues and some high school leagues require these safety measures. Other leagues recommend these measures, but are lax on enforcement. A much greater reduction in injuries could be achieved if all amateur-and professional-leagues mandated these safety practices.

Inline Skates

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that in-line skating - a popular new sport - can be hazardous if skaters do not wear helmets and other safety gear or do not learn to skate and stop safely. CPSC estimates that approximately 100,000 consumers annually receive hospital emergency room treatment for injuries associated with in-line skates.

Most injuries were to wrists, arms, and legs. CPSC recommends the use of safety gear to help prevent injuries with in-line skates. A helmet, elbow pads, kneepads, wrist guards and gloves should always be worn. In addition, skaters should observe the following safety tips:

  • Get instruction. Learn to stop safely by using the brake pads at the heel of most in-line skates. With one foot somewhat in front of the other, raise the toes of the front foot and push down on the heel brake.
  • Skate on smooth, paved surfaces without any traffic. Avoid skating on streets, driveways, or surfaces with water, sand, gravel, or dirt.

Do not skate at night -- others can't see you and you can't see obstacles or other skaters.

Martial Arts

More than 1.5 million people in the United States practice the martial arts, which include karate, judo, and tae kwon do. Data on the number and rates of injuries related to martial arts are very limited, but studies have shown that most injuries are the result of poor techniques, excessive force, and inexperience with the technique being employed.

The most common martial arts injuries are cuts, bruises, and sprains. Fractures and dislocations have also been reported. Serious injuries such as concussions and damage to internal organs are rare but can occur.

Playground Safety

Protect Your Child from Playground Injuries

Montlick & Associates


As part of National Playground Safety Week, Family Safety Advocate, Jacquie Palisi shares simple tips to help avoid preventable playground injuries as families head to the community park or backyard swing set. Download our Parent's Guide to Playground Safety to help protect your child.

Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 children 14 years of age and younger are treated in emergency departments for playground-related injuries.

  • About 15 children age 14 and under die from playground-related injuries each year. Almost half of these deaths result from strangulation, and about one-quarter are from falls to the playground surface.
  • More than one-third of all playground-related injuries are severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.
  • Almost 70% of injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds.
  • Most injuries that occur on playgrounds are associated with climbing equipment, slides and swings.
  • In schools, most injuries to students ages 5 to 14 occur on playgrounds.
  • In 1995, costs associated with playground-related injuries among children under 15 were estimated at $1.3 billion.

Use this simple checklist to help make sure your local community or school playground is a safe place to play.

  1. Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
  2. Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
  3. Make sure play structures more than 30 inches high are spaced at least 9 feet apart.
  4. Check for dangerous hardware, like open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends.
  5. Make sure spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
  6. Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.
  7. Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
  8. Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
  9. Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.
  10. Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they're safe.

Skateboard Injuries

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 26,000 persons are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year with skateboard related injuries. Sprains, fractures, contusions and abrasions are the most common types of injuries. Deaths due to collisions with cars and from falls are also reported.

Several factors - lack of protective equipment, poor board maintenance and irregular riding surfaces are involved in these accidents. Skateboard riding requires good balance and body control, yet many young skateboarders have not developed the necessary balance and do not react quickly enough to prevent injury.

Six out of every 10 skateboard injuries are to children under 15 years of age.

Skateboarders who have been skating for less than a week suffer one-third of the injuries; riders with a year or more of experience have the next highest number of injuries.

Injuries to first-time skateboarders are, for the most part, due to falls. Experienced riders mainly suffer injuries when they fall after their skateboards strike rocks and other irregularities in the riding surface or when they attempt difficult stunts. Irregular riding surfaces account for over half the skateboarding injuries due to falls.

Protective Gear

Protective gear, such as closed, slip-resistant shoes, helmets, and specially designed padding, may not fully protect skateboarders from fractures, but its use is recommended as such gear that can reduce the number and severity of injuries.

Padded jackets and shorts are available, as well as padding for hips, knees, elbows, wrist braces and special skateboarding gloves. All of this protective gear will help absorb the impact of a fall. With protective gear, it is important to look for comfort, design, and function. The gear should not interfere with the skater's movement, vision, or hearing.

Tips For Using A Skateboard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following suggestions for safe skateboarding:

  • Never ride in the street.
  • Don't take chances:
    1. Complicated tricks require careful practice and a specially designed area
    2. Only one person per skateboard
    3. Never hitch a ride from a car, bus, truck, bicycle, etc.
  • Learning how to fall in case of an accident may help reduce your chances of being seriously injured.
    1. If you are losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so that you will not have so far to fall.
    2. In a fall, try to land on the fleshy parts of your body.
    3. If you fall, try to roll rather than absorb the force with your arms.
    4. Even though it may be difficult, during a fall try to relax your body, rather than stiffen.

Soccer Injuries

With about 40 million amateur players, soccer is the most popular sport worldwide. It is also a sport associated with a fairly high rate of injury. In the U.S., more than 200,000 young people each year are injured badly enough to seek medical treatment.

For players under 12 years old, the injury rate in soccer is very low-less than 1 percent-but the injury rate rises with age. Nearly 8 percent of high school soccer players are injured in a season, and among community leagues, nearly 9 percent of players 19 years old and younger sustain injuries. Older participants sustain more frequent and severe injuries than young players, and girls are injured more often than boys. Most injuries are caused by illegal plays, poor field conditions, or heading the ball incorrectly.

Injuries in soccer are usually mild-sprains, strains, and contusions (bruises)-and mostly affect the lower extremities. The most common site of injury is the ankle, followed closely by the knee. Acute head injuries are rare, accounting for about 5 percent of injuries. Many of the most severe injuries are related to soccer goal posts. Goal posts have been responsible for at least 22 deaths in the last 20 years, and hospital emergency departments treat about 90 goal-related injuries each year. Most of these deaths and injuries have been caused by hitting one's head on the goal post or being hit or crushed by a falling goal post.

Injuries can be prevented if players wear shin guards, warm up before play, and follow the rules of the game. Changes in equipment can also greatly enhance injury prevention efforts. Most notably, the addition of padding to goal posts can reduce the number and severity of head injuries. Laboratory testing has shown that padding reduces the force of hitting the post by 31 to 63 percent. Anchoring movable goal posts to the ground at all times, even when not in use, can also greatly reduce some of the most serious injuries. The National Federation of State High School Associations' Soccer Rules Committee now requires that soccer goals be anchored. The international soccer association (FIFA) is also considering making this change to its rules.

Trampoline Injuries

The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that in 1998 there were 95,000 hospital emergency room-treated injuries associated with trampolines. About 75 percent of the victims are under 15 years of age, and 10 percent are under 5 years of age. Since 1990, CPSC has received reports of 6 deaths involving trampolines. The hazards that result in injuries and deaths are:

  • Colliding with another person on the trampoline.
  • Landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts on the trampoline.
  • Falling or jumping off the trampoline.
  • Falling on the trampoline springs or frame.

Almost all of the trampolines associated with injuries were at private homes, usually in backyards. Most of the injuries occurred on full-size trampolines.

Here are the steps you can take to help prevent serious trampoline injuries, especially sprains, fractures, scrapes, bruises, and cuts.

  • Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
  • Do not attempt or allow somersaults.
  • Do not allow trampoline to be used without shock-absorbing pads that completely cover the springs, hooks, and the frame.
  • Place the trampoline away from structures and other play areas. Use shock-absorbent material on the ground around the perimeter.
  • Do not use a ladder with the trampoline because it provides unsupervised access by small children. No child under 6 years of age should use a regular-size trampoline. Secure the trampoline to prevent unauthorized and unattended use.
  • Always supervise children who use a trampoline.

Safety Links On This Topic

Sources: The safety tips in this section were compiled from the following great internet resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (