A Retrospective Analysis of Softball-Related Head and Facial Injuries Treated in United States Emergency Departments, 2013-2017

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Background: Softball is a popular sport played through both competitive and recreational leagues. While head and facial injuries are a known problem occurring from games, little is known about the frequency or mechanisms by which they occur. Purpose: To analyze head/face injury diagnoses and to identify the mechanisms associated with such injuries. Study Design: Descriptive epidemiological study. Methods: A public database was used to query data related to head/facial injuries sustained in softball. Data including age, sex, race/ethnicity, injury diagnosis, affected body parts, disposition, incident location, and narrative descriptions were collected and analyzed. Results: A total of 3324 head and face injuries were documented in the database over the time span of 2013 to 2017, resulting in a nationwide weighted estimate of 121,802 head/face injuries occurring annually. The mean age of the players was 21.5 ± 14.4 years; 72.1% of injured players were female, while 27.9% were male. The most common injury diagnoses were closed head injuries (22.0%), contusions (18.7%), concussions (17.7%), lacerations (17.1%), and fractures (15.1%). The overwhelming majority of injuries involved being struck by a ball (74.3%), followed by colliding with another player (8.3%), colliding with the ground or a fixed object (5.0%), or being struck by a bat (2.8%). For those injuries caused by a struck-by-ball incident, most occurred from defensive play (83.7% were fielders struck by a hit or thrown ball) as opposed to offensive play (12.3% were players hit by a pitch or runners struck by a ball). Although helmet usage was poorly tracked in the database, female players (1.3%) were significantly more likely to have been wearing a helmet at the time of injury than were male players (0.2%) (P =.002). Conclusion: The present study demonstrates that a large number of head and face injuries occur annually within the United States as a result of softball play. A variety of injuries were observed, with the majority involving defensive players being struck by the ball, which highlights the need for more focus on player safety by stronger adherence to protective headgear usage and player health monitoring.

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Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine





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