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May 30, 2001
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Professional Mascots Likely To Suffer Heat Illness, Injure Knees

The furry- or feathered-costumed mascots at professional ball games may have more in common than entertaining the crowd: a high propensity for heat illness and other assorted injuries, according to a Johns Hopkins study.

Heat-related illness is the most important health problem affecting professional mascots, the study found. Among 48 mascots for professional baseball, basketball and football teams across the country responding to mailed questionnaires, 28 (58 percent) reported experiencing heat illness. Half required intravenous fluids, and one needed hospitalization.

The study also found the most commonly injured area was the knee, accounting for 17 percent of all ailments, followed by the hand/wrist/finger at 14 percent and ankle at 13 percent.

Results of the survey, which looked at all injuries affecting mascots, were presented

May 30 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore.

"You can’t believe how many ways mascots get injured," says Edward G. McFarland, M.D., senior author of the study and director of sports medicine and shoulder surgery at Hopkins. "They’ve been hit by golf carts, fallen on stairs and gotten in fights, among other mishaps.

"The heat illness problem is serious, though. It could be reduced through better costume construction – using more lightweight materials – or rotating several people through the suit on a really hot day. Also, if the costumes allowed the mascots’ feet to be free, they might have more control and reduce the incidence of falls."

Of the179 injuries reported by the group, 89 (50 percent) occurred to the lower half of the body; 54 (30 percent) to the upper half of the body; 19 (11 percent) to the head/neck; 12 (7 percent) to the back; and five (3 percent) to the chest and ribs. The most common acute injury was ankle sprain, comprising 11 percent of all injuries. Forty-four percent of all mascots reported a history of chronic low back pain. Twenty-two injuries (12 percent) required surgical repair.

On average, the surveyed group was 29 years old, male, and worked 17 hours a week for 43 weeks per year, and for nearly eight years.

Other authors of the study were K.W. Farmer; G.J. Roehrig; W.S. Queale; and A.J. Cosgarea.

Abstract #2793: "Epidemiology of Injuries Among Professional Mascots"

Related Web sites:

Division of Sports Medicine & Shoulder Surgery at Johns Hopkins: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopedicsurgery/sports/

American College of Sports Medicine: http://www.acsm.org

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