Despite the name, a softball is not soft. A softball is about twelve inches in circumference – three inches larger than a baseball. Thousands of children in the United States are treated in emergency rooms for baseball and softball-related injuries. Softball injuries to the head are involved more than any other part of the body.
The following safety tips are designed to help children play safe and prevent injury on the baseball or softball fields.
Softball Equipment Safety:
Children should use always use proper safety gear when playing. This equipment includes catcher’s gear, athletic supporters and cups, protective eyewear, and proper footware (which may include cleats). Good quality, double-eared helmets should be worn to protect the ear and temple region against ball impact. Catchers should also wear a helmet with full face and throat protection.
Breakaway/quick release bases should be used instead of standard stationary bases to reduce the impact forces generated from of a sliding player.
Protective screening should be used to protect players in dugouts and on benches, and the playing fields and facilities should be well-maintained. The playing field and facilities should be free of garbage and debris, and there should be no sinkholes, stumps or rocks in the infield or outfield. Fences, walls and posts should be padded to help prevent injury if players run in to them when attempting to catch a ball.
All equipment should be inspected regularly to make sure it is in good condition.
Playing The Game:
Children should be taught how to play softball correctly, and they should play with other children of the same skill level, physical maturity and weight. Players should be taught to perform proper streaching and strenghtening techniques before playing.
Players should wear sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. The sunscreen also should be sweat and water-resistant and reapplied every two to three hours.
The coach should be made away of the player’s medical conditions. A child should not play if he or she is experiencing persistent pain, a loss of motion, or any other abnormalities.
All players need to be kept hydrated. Water should be made available before, during and after all games and practices. Water is best, but sports drinks and juices can be decent alternatives. Avoid caffinated drinks, as caffine is a diuretic, which acts to dehydrate the body.