National Amateur Baseball
Catastrophic Injury Surveillance Program
By: USA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee
and the
National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

INTRODUCTION

USA Baseball had been concerned with safety issues for many years, and in 1989 formed a USA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee. The Committee initiated a National Amateur Baseball Catastrophic (Deaths and Permanent Disability) Surveillance Program, which has issued annual reports from 1989 through 2006.

The final report includes eighteen years of data collection from 1989 through 2006. Participation numbers for that period of time included 82,687,876 amateur baseball players in 13 organizations. Catastrophic injuries for that same period of time included 39 fatalities, 26 disability injuries, and 30 injuries with complete recovery. The catastrophic injury rate for the eighteen years is 0.11 injuries per 100,000 participants or approximately one injury per 1,000,000 participants. This figure is very low. The rates were changed from earlier reports due to the fact that all non-related baseball injuries (automobile accidents, drowning, etc.) were deleted from the report. The eighteen year injury rate for fatalities was 0.05 per 100,000 participants, 0.03 for disability injuries, and 0.04 for serious or recovery injuries. The researchers are confident in the data for fatalities and permanent disability injuries, but are not as confident in the data for serious injuries. Serious injury data (serious injury but with full recovery) are more difficult to collect. It should also be emphasized that the results only relate to the thirteen organizations that are involved in the data collection. In 2005 there was a nine year-old youth baseball player that collapsed and died during a practice. He was not included in this report due to the fact that he was not associated with one of the 13 leagues.

As one would expect, catastrophic injuries in baseball happen when players are hit with a pitched, batted or thrown ball, players colliding when chasing a fly ball, and the head/finger first slide. There are also fatalities associated with cardiac sudden death.

Any data collection system is only as good as the organizations collecting the data. At the present time a majority of the participating organizations are making a good effort in collecting the required information. In most cases we know how the accidents happen, but in the future an in-depth investigation of each accident would be advisable.

Information was requested and received from the death certificate file of the Consumer Product Safety Commission covering the period from January 1988 to September 1993. Information was available on six baseball deaths during that period. Four of the deaths were to individuals over 30 years of age and did not fit into our data collection system. One death was to a 10 year old who was struck in the chest by a pitched ball causing cardiac arrythmia. This case was in the USA Baseball files. The last case was a death to a 13 year old struck in the neck by a baseball causing brainstem infarction. His case was not in USA Baseball files. Information was not available on what type of league the victim was playing in or if the baseball was thrown or batted. These six deaths were in organized baseball. Additional information was requested from the Consumer Product Safety Commission death certificate file covering the period from 1994 through 1997. Information was received on 18 baseball deaths, of which USA Baseball had information on four. USA Baseball did not have information on three of the cases, and the remaining eleven involved accidents happening in the streets, backyards, and in other play that was not organized. The eleven cases also included accidents to three and four year olds. The latest information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission death certificate file was from 1999 through 12/6/01. Five deaths were listed and two were in unorganized baseball. Two of the remaining cases were in 1999 and one in 2000. USA Baseball has accounted for eight baseball deaths during that three-year period of time. It is our feeling that we are getting the information from the thirteen organizations that are participating in the study.

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