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Making Little League Safer


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Baseball is the American pastime, and the passion starts early. More than two-million kids play Little League baseball in the United States.

Overall, Little League is considered a safe sport with relatively few injuries. But could it be even safer if kids wore faceguards and played with softer baseballs.

Chad Aune works in a sporting goods store. He's also a parent.

Chad Aune, Parent: "I WORRY ABOUT SAFETY WHEN MY 9-YEAR-OLD IS PLAYING BASEBALL."

The people who run Little League Baseball also worry about safety, so they asked researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to look into the issue.

Steve Marshall, Ph.D./ UNC Chapel Hill: "THESE PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT ITEMS, THE SAFETY BASEBALLS, THE FACEGUARDS, DO WORK. THEY DO REDUCE THE RISK OF INJURY IN YOUTH BASEBALL, AND WE SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGE LEAGUES TO USE THESE EQUIPMENT ITEMS WHEREVER POSSIBLE."

As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers followed all two million little league players for three years, comparing use of the safety equipment to injury rates.

Here's what they found. Faceguards reduced the risk of facial injuries by more than a third, and soft baseballs reduced the risk of ball-related injuries by almost a quarter.

The authors say their findings are just common sense.

Fred Mueller, Ph.D./ UNC Chapel Hill: "IF THE BASEBALL HITS THE FACEMASK IT'S NOT GOING TO HIT THE FACE AND IT'S OBVIOUS YOU'RE GOING TO REDUCE INJURIES THAT WAY. AND ALSO, THE SOFTER BALL, IT'S JUST, IF YOU'RE HIT WITH SOMETHING HARD IT'S GOING TO CAUSE MORE INJURY THAN BEING HIT WITH SOMETHING SOFT."

That makes sense to parents like Lyssa Whitson.

Lyssa Whitson/ Parent: "I REMEMBER THROWING THE BALL AT MY FATHER WHEN I WAS A KID AND BROKE HIS GLASSES AND ALMOST BROKE HIS NOSE."

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