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Little League Goes to Bat for Safety

Baseball is known for timeless traditions, but some modern retooling may help keep young players safer.

That's why Little League Baseball has amended the rules for its participants. The changes began with the fall 2008 season with mandatory pitch count limits.

Pitchers ages 7 to 8 can throw no more than 50 pitches a game. That pitcher can't change to the catcher position for the rest of that day. Pitchers ages 16 and under who throw 41 or more pitches in a game, and those ages 17 to 18 throwing 51 one or more pitches must have a day of rest, as well as the regular days of rest required.

These changes are to protect young arms from overuse injuries. Medical research indicates that it will reduce the risk of elbow, shoulder, and arm injuries.

Little League now requires breakaway bases to cut down on leg injuries from sliding into an anchored base. It will also set standards for balls and aluminum bats used in games so they will all have the same performance factor.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), baseball injuries affect up to 8 percent of participants each year. Direct contact by the ball is the most frequent cause of death and serious injury in baseball. The AAP also says that baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in children, and the highest incidence occurs in children 5 to 14 years of age. Approximately one-third of baseball-related eye injuries result from being struck by a pitched ball.

If your youngster plays baseball, make sure to cover these bases:

  • Kids should warm up and cool down before each practice and game.

  • Catchers should wear a throat guard on their masks.

  • Adding a face shield or cage to batting helmets can prevent, reduce, or lessen the severity of facial injuries.

  • Little League recommends pitchers under age 14 avoid throwing breaking pitches (curve balls, sliders), which strain elbows.

Baseball should be as safe and enjoyable as possible without jeopardizing the integrity of the game.