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Youth baseball deaths very rare, studies show

Updated: May 15, 2012 8:09AM

Deaths in youth baseball are rare, but so are studies on the matter.

One study found 13 boys between ages 5 and 12 died playing Little League baseball between 1987 and 1996.

The study, co-authored by Frederick Mueller, an emeritus professor of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recorded a yearly average of 29,038 injuries among the 1.7 million participants he studied. That comes to an injury rate of 1.69 per 1,000 participants.

“It’s a safe sport for kids to play,” Mueller said.

He was surprised by the circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Lederman, 12, of Oswego on Thursday.

“I’ve never heard of a situation where a boy dies after getting hit in the neck,” Mueller said. “. . . It’s more common in youth baseball where a kid gets hit in the chest and the heart stops, but even that is very rare.”

Another study by USA Baseball, whose members range from T-ball to college level, found there were 39 deaths among the 82.6 million participants in the sport from 1989 to 2006.

The study found catastrophic injuries — deaths or permanent disability — in youth baseball are very infrequent: 1 per million players in organized play.

By examining a range of injuries reported for insurance purposes, USA Baseball also found “the younger the age group, the more relatively frequent the injuries came from practice sessions, not the game itself. In addition, the younger the age group, the higher the relative frequency of injuries came from “before/after” baseball play (e.g., warm-ups and post-game horseplay) whether involving a game or a practice.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported about 1.6 million such injuries from 1994 to 2006, with 46 percent involving being hit by a ball.

Players ages 9 to 12 were at highest risk for baseball injuries, with an average of 2.4 per 1,000 players, according to the academy.

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