Health Day - ONLINE EDITION

Baseballs, Softballs Often to Blame for Kids' Facial Fractures

Errant catches can lead to serious trauma, study found

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SATURDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Most sports-related facial fractures among children occur when they're trying to catch a baseball or softball, according to new research. These injuries are relatively common, and they can be serious.

The new study examined how and when facial fractures occur in various sports. "These data may allow targeted or sport-specific craniofacial fracture injury prevention strategies," wrote study leader Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt and colleagues at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The study, published in the June issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, involved 167 children and teens treated in the emergency room for a sports-related fracture between 2000 and 2005. About 11 percent of facial fractures were sports-related, according to a journal news release.

Of the children treated for facial fractures, roughly 80 percent were boys. Nearly two-thirds were between 12 and 15 years old. Forty percent of injuries were broken noses, 34 percent were fractures around the eye and 31 percent were skull fractures.

Forty-five percent of the children were admitted to the hospital for their injuries. Of these, 15 percent were sent to the intensive-care unit. Roughly 10 percent of the children lost consciousness and 4 percent had more significant injuries considered a level-one trauma (the worst trauma), including an unstable airway or spinal cord injury.

Many of the children were injured by a ball while they were attempting to catch it and 44 percent of the fractures involved baseball and softball. Most often, players were inured while attempting to field a line drive.

Meanwhile, only 10 percent of the cases occurred while playing basketball and football. Fractures sustained during these two sports, as well as most in soccer, occurred when players collided. Collisions with another player accounted for 24.5 percent of injuries, the study showed.

Falls also were to blame for about 19 percent of injuries. Other patterns of fractures were seen in specific sports. For instance, golf injuries most often happened at home when a club struck a child.

All facial fractures from skiing and snowboarding and most from skateboarding occurred in children who were not wearing helmets. Most horseback riding fractures were the result of being kicked by a horse. Although horseback riding and skateboarding injuries occurred less frequently, they were more serious. Of these, 29 percent of horseback riding injuries and 14 percent of skateboarding injuries were classified as a level-one trauma.

The study authors said their findings could help prevent future injuries in children. For instance, skateboarders, skiers and snowboarders should always wear helmets to reduce their risk for fracture. Nasal protectors can also prevent some fractures for basketball and soccer players. Softer, low-impact balls also have been recommended for youth baseball and softball. The researchers added that more protective equipment may be beneficial for outfielders playing baseball or softball.

"Our strongest recommendation for injury prevention may be further consideration of face protective equipment for players fielding in baseball and softball," the researchers wrote.

More information

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons has more about treating and preventing facial injuries.

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