Baseball is America's sport and has been played longer than football, basketball or any other professional sport. Wars have interrupted baseball seasons, but the game has survived and even broke the racial barrier sooner than other sports. Baseball is considered a non-contact sport, but contact with baseball equipment and other players can result in injury.
Of the 627,000 baseball injuries occurring each year, 117,000 of them occur in children age 5 to 14, according to the American Association of Orthropaedic Surgeons and the University of North Carolina. Baseball has the highest rate of death among children of that age group, with three to four deaths per year, according to Cooper University Hospital. The University of North Carolina has been collecting injury statistics and discovered that between 1983 and 2009, 52 high school baseball players suffered direct catastrophic injuries playing baseball. During the same time span, there were 15 indirect deaths during baseball play. The difference between direct and indirect is that direct injuries are caused by actions of the game and indirect injuries are the"result of exertion while participating in a sport activity or by a complication which was secondary to a non-fatal injury." Examples of indirect injuries are overheating, heart problems and sickle cell trait. Some players don't know they have sickle cell trait or the actual disease, which can cause joint or heart issues that are not caused by the action of the game. College level play between 1983 and 2009 had 15 direct catastrophic injuries and two indirect fatalities, according to the University of North Carolina.
More than 627,000 baseball injuries each year are treated by medical professionals, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Baseball is not a contact sport, but contact with a ball, bat, or another player results in the most serious injuries. The most common injuries include repetitive use injuries to the shoulder and elbow, muscle pulls, contusions, ligament injuries, black eyes, concussions and lacerations. Knee injuries also are relatively common. Some of these injuries can be career ending if severe enough, as joint replacement does not work well for athletes.
Injury analyst Rick Wilton claims full and accurate injury information will never be available. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 limited access to ballplayers' medical statuses. Management has taken a page from the National Football League in not wanting the competition to know who is on the disabled list and who is not. The lack of information makes it difficult to determine if injuries occur during practice or during games and how severe the injury is. If a player dies, which is rare in baseball, more information might be released.
Watching a baseball game from the stands doesn't protect people from injury. A mother of two was hit in the left temple by a foul ball in 2010 and died. She was the first spectator killed at a game in four decades. Estimates are that 4,000 spectators are injured during games. In 123 years, three deaths have occurred at major and minor league games. A 14-year-old boy was hit in the temple by a foul ball at Dodger Stadium in 1970 and died four days later. A 68-year-old man was hit by a foul ball at a minor league game in 1980 and died. In 2010, a 9-year-old girl was hit in the face by a ball clocked at 86 mph. She survived but had a severely broken nose.
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: The History of Baseball
- American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Baseball Injury Prevention
- Brown University: Biology 108: Professional Sports and Knee Injuries
- Cooper University Hospital Bone and Joint Institute: Sports Injury Statistics
- University of North Carolina: National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research: 27th Annual Report 2009
- Reporting Texas.com: Into the Stands: How Safe is Pro Baseball?