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Big league pain for high school ballplayers

Daily News—NEW YORK—June 1, 2008

America's National pastime is getting more dangerous.

While high school athletes suffer fewer baseball injuries than in the past, those who do are more severely hurt, according to new research.

Head injuries, fractures and wounds requiring surgery all went up in the last decade, researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio found. Most of the head injuries and fractures were from hits off the bat, said the report in this month's "Pediatrics."

"In the past 10 years we've seen an increase in the competitiveness of kids' sports, especially baseball, and a decrease in kids who are just playing for fun," said Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine doctor at Hospital for Special Surgery.

"The rate of injury increases two-fold in a formalized sport than when you're playing around in the background," Metzl said.

About 11,000 more kids played high school baseball in 2005-06 than in the previous season alone. In that season and the one after, there were 1.3 injuries for every 1,000 games or practices. Ten years ago, that rate was 1.5 injuries per 1,000 athletes.

But 12% of the recent baseball injuries were to the head, compared with about 2% a decade ago. More than 14% were fractures, versus 9% in the past, and 9% required surgery, up from 3%.

Better technology may pick up more injuries than in the past, and improved surgeries may draw more players to the operating room, doctors said. But while bans on powerful aluminum bats may reduce injuries from speeding balls, the increasing severity of muscle tears and sprains won't change unless teen athletes slow down.

This story originally appeared at NYDailyNews.com.


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