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Death of nine-year-old bat boy illustrates risks of youth participation in sports


What was supposed to be an enjoyable time spent watching the Great American Pastime turned into a night of tragedy when nine-year-old Kaiser Carlile, batboy for the Kansas Liberal Bee Jays, was struck by a warm-up swing of a Bee Jays player. The umpire, a long-time paramedic, treated Carlile at the scene until he was transported to a local hospital. Sadly, Carlile died later that night from the blow to his head. He was wearing a helmet at the time.

The National Baseball Congress is a summer league for amateur and semi-pro players. The Liberal Bee Jays were participating in the World Series tournament, and Kaiser Carlile was a volunteer batboy for the Kansas team. In deference to his death and the safety concerns surrounding it, the NBC has suspended its use of batboys and batgirls for the remainder of the games in Kansas.


The tragic death of Kaiser Carlile reminds parents, players and spectators alike that sports can be dangerous for children. In fact, 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. While baseball is one of the safer sports, in 2007 there were 3,343 baseball injuries recorded in 5-18 year-olds at U.S. Emergency Departments. Of those injuries, nearly half of them--44%--involved injuries to the head, with the highest frequency of injury occurring in children ages 9-11 years old. In light of these statistics, Kaiser Carlile's fatal injury may be thankfully uncommon, but certainly not unheard of.

In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data shows that injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21% of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the U.S. Furthermore, the younger the child, the higher the rate of injury seems to be: children ages 5-14 account for nearly 40% of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals.


Young players are more likely to be injured while playing baseball and sports in general for several reasons. The first is physiological: blunt chest impact to a child 14 years and under can have a catastrophic and even fatal consequence due to the fact that the chest wall of a child that age is more elastic and therefore more easily compressed. This phenomenon is called commotio cordis, and it is almost exclusively a pediatric problem. Blunt chest impact can occur from a ball, a bat, or a hit by another player.

Another reason that younger players are injured more frequently while playing sports is that they have not fully developed the skill, experience and speed necessary to avoid certain impacts. A more seasoned pitcher, outfielder, or catcher for instance, may be able to move in time or shield themselves from a fast-flying ball than a younger player. Protective gear has its limits, as the incident with Kaiser Carlile illustrates all too poignantly.


Because young players are more at risk for catastrophic injury due to blunt chest impact, EMTs with cardio resuscitation equipment should be standing by at all games. Immediate care for these injuries is crucial to survival. In addition, careful supervision of young players at all times before, during and after games is needed to keep them safe. Ensuring that players have correct protective equipment is also key to promoting safe participation in sports. Not only should players wear all of the required gear, but coaches and parents need to ensure that it fits properly and is sized correctly so that it can protect each player as much as possible. Finally, if a player is feeling tired or experiencing a muscle strain (arm, shoulder and elbow pain are particularly common ailments in baseball), they should sit out for awhile. A tired or injured player is an unsafe player and an accident waiting to happen.


If your child has been injured while playing sports, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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