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Study shows faceguards, safety balls cut number of Little League injuries

CHAPEL HILL -- Use of such protective equipment as faceguards and modified "safety balls" can significantly cut the number of injuries to children and adolescents playing organized baseball, a major new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes. The equipment cannot eliminate injuries entirely, the investigation shows, but researchers recommend the special balls and face protection even though they say the incidence of serious injuries in the sport is already low.

Conducted by UNC Injury Prevention Research Center-affiliated scientists, the study involved analyzing injury information resulting from three years, or more than 6.7 million "player-seasons," of Little League participation. It is the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind ever done, the scientists say.

"We undertook this study at the request of USA Baseball's Medical and Safety Advisory Committee because it was not known for sure whether these two types of equipment reduced the risk of injury in youth baseball," said Dr. Stephen W. Marshall. "Little League Baseball, which was highly supportive, shared with us extensive data they had on injuries compensated by insurance. We found that one type of 'safety ball,' known as a reduced-impact ball, cut the number of ball-related injuries by some 29 percent, and faceguards reduced the risk of facial injuries by 35 percent."

Marshall, assistant professor of epidemiology and assistant professor of orthopaedics, respectively, at the UNC schools of public health and medicine, was principal author of a report on the findings that appears in the Feb. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Study principal investigator was Dr. Frederick Mueller, professor and chair of exercise and sport science at UNC and Marshall's long-time mentor.

Health behavior and health education doctoral student Jingzhen Yang of UNC and Daniel P. Kirby, director of risk management for Little League Inc. of Willia
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
4-Feb-2003


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