Concussion rates are rising 14% a year among high school and college baseball players.
According to a major analysis by Frontiers in Neurology, more than six million children play in organized baseball leagues and up to thirteen million more play non-organized baseball. That’s a lot of players. And a lot of risk.
Of course, we tend to think of baseball as a sport that involves injuries to the extremities – not the brain. Sprained ankles, skinned elbows, and worn out shoulders get most of the attention.
However, mild traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – also known as “concussions” – are a serious (and growing) health risk among baseball players of all ages.
The study referenced above, for example, reports that “[...] in 2009, 38,942 patients with baseball-related head injuries were treated in American emergency rooms alone.” Of course, reported head injuries don’t account for all head injuries. Many more injuries go unreported by baseball players, parents, and coaches.
Concussions In Baseball
Unfortunately, concussions in baseball are a growing problem. Researchers have found that baseball concussions are rising at a rate of approximately 14 percent a year among high school and collegiate players. While baseball isn’t thought of as an “impact sport” like hockey or football, it’s clear that the risk for TBI is present. The question is, as parents, what can we do about it?
Step One: Protecting Against Concussion
Protection starts with wearing the proper gear. For starters, every batter should always wear a helmet at the plate. Additional protection is possible through protective liners, which can be inserted into helmets and even hats. These extra pads may be effective in reducing the impact with which a ball strikes the head; by reducing impact, players may also reduce their risk for sustaining concussion.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends reducing risk for concussion in baseball by…
- Learning proper base sliding techniques
- Removing tripping hazards and ensuring fields are in good condition
- Ensuring equipment is in good condition
While one in four high school baseball concussions result from being hit by a ball, approximately the same number of concussions result from fielding a batted ball. Stay safe, whether you’re in the field or at the plate.
Step Two: Recognizing Baseball Concussion Symptoms
Concussion symptoms don’t change based on cause or type of impact. So, the concussion symptoms from a baseball injury will look the same as a concussion sustained in football, hockey, etc. Symptoms may include:
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increased sensitivity to noise or light
- Shift in mood
If you believe a player has suffered a concussion during a baseball game or practice, remove the player immediately and seek evaluation from a trained medical professional. If a TBI has occurred, then the provider may recommend rest – anywhere from several days to several weeks away from baseball, depending on the severity of the concussion.
Rest after a concussion is very important. Returning to play without allowing enough time for healing can put the player at an increased risk for a subsequent concussion, which could have lifelong consequences.
Additional recovery help may be possible through brain wellness support programs.