Youth sports related injuries are a reality that many parents of active kids must face. Today, J&J mom Christine shares the youth sports safety tips she learned after her son had an accident on the baseball field. This post is part of our partner Safe Kids Worldwide’s campaign on the culture of youth sports and sports safety.
In May 2013, my eleven year-old son Giovanni was pitching for his little league baseball team in Staten Island, New York. It was the bottom of the fifth inning. He had already struck out two batters and the third batter, about a foot taller than my son, was on deck. Giovanni’s first pitch went right down the middle of the plate. The batter swung and hit, and the ball hit my son in the face.
Giovanni was out cold on the pitcher’s mound. He didn’t even have time to react. When he regained consciousness and opened his mouth to speak, blood came out instead of words, and we realized that he had been hit in the mouth. Both his top and bottom teeth were loosened, and he had several cuts on the inside of his mouth.
We rushed him to the nearest emergency room but there wasn’t a dentist on call and the residents couldn’t help him because it is hard to stitch the inside of the mouth. The next day, the dentist bonded his teeth together and we waited. We went for checkups every week to see if the teeth were re-attaching. Thankfully, they were.
However, the after effects of his sports injury continued. Two of the nerves in Giovanni’s mouth died as a result of the injury and root canals were required. He also needed braces to correct the shifting of his teeth that was caused by the injury.
I want my son to benefit from team sports and I thought I was doing a decent job of protecting him from injury. But I’ve learned there were some things I didn’t know. I didn’t know there were new kinds of face masks for pitchers and I didn’t know that there was a thirteen year-old player on one of our 12 and under teams. This was the child whose line drive hit my son in the face.
There are big physical differences between age 11 and age 13. That’s why in our part of the United States, thirteen year-olds are supposed to play in a different age group than the 12-and-unders. Thirteen year-olds play on a field where the pitcher’s mound is 60 feet 6 inches from home plate to account for their added strength and development. The pitcher’s mound is 46 feet from home plate in 12 and under.
If your child is playing team sports, here are a few suggestions on how you can protect him or her on the field:
- Be your child’s advocate. If you think that a player may be outside of his/her age group – speak up. It is not the unfair advantage you should be worried about, but the safety of children on the field.
- Make sure athletes have the right equipment and are wearing it for both practices and games. Depending on the sport, the right equipment may include helmets, shin guards, mouth guards, ankle braces, or shoes with rubber cleats. Prior to this incident, safety guards for the face were not required in my son’s baseball league. Now, they are mandatory.
- Always leave coaches with an emergency contact number. Make it easy for folks to reach you if something does happen.
- Encourage coaches and parents to get certified in first aid and CPR and have a stocked first aid kit handy at all practices and games.
Giovanni was one of the lucky ones. He will recover from his injuries. Not all kids are this fortunate. I am grateful every day because I often think of what could have happened, and I hope that sharing our story helps prevent an injury to another child.
More Youth Sports Related Injury Resources
For more sports safety tips, visit our partner, Safe Kids Worldwide.
Read a copy of Safe Kids Worldwide’s 2014 Culture of Youth Sports Report.
This article is intended to contain general information that should not be considered a substitute for medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical health or the health of your children, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and may not reflect those of Johnson & Johnson.
Christine Gentile is a Leasing Administrator in the Johnson & Johnson law department, and has been with the company for over nine years. She is married with a 12 year old son and 10 year old daughter and lives in Staten Island, NY.