Most Common Injuries For Baseball Players And How To Prevent Them
Every sport comes with its own sets of risks and baseball is no exception. For being a sport that has continuous repetitive movements and motions, using the same joints, tendons, and ligaments over and over again, there are bound to be strains, tears, and deterioration.
According to Mueller Sports Medicine, pitchers are most likely to experience injuries due to their positions being the most repetitive and physically taxing. However, we are going to cover not only possible pitching injuries but injuries caused by baserunning and catching. Let’s dive in.
Michael Gleiber MD states that knee injuries are likely to occur when running from base to base, such as when making a sudden stop while running, landing on a flexed knee, or twisting the knee with the foot planted. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL) are two of the ligaments that are likely to be affected by these maneuvers. These ligaments are what help stabilize the knee and keep the knee attached to the femur.
ACL and MCL injuries are often recognized by sudden pain in the knee and a loud popping or snapping sensation that can be felt when the injury first occurs. Swelling can also occur after this injury and you may feel a looseness in the joint which can become unstable if put under extreme force or exertion. This injury can be known to be extremely painful.
Surgery, in most cases, is the best option to repair the torn ligament, but if a mild tear occurs, the injury may heal on its own.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rothman Orthopedics defines the rotator cuff as a group of four muscles that coordinate the shoulder’s movement. Repeatedly throwing overhead will cause compression on the tendons as they pass through the shoulder joint, which can lead to pain or shoulder discomfort.
You will know when you tear a rotator cuff muscle because you will experience an instant pain that can shoot down the arm.
The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is located in the elbow and provides stability to the arm. This ligament is most commonly damaged due to excessive use in pitchers. This is also one of the most common injuries we see in baseball.
The signs to look out for are the loss of control of pitches, pain in the inner elbow, and lack of joint instability. The UCL can be repaired by the “Tommy John” surgery.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
According to WebMD, the Achilles tendon is the tendon that attaches to the back of the leg to the heel. This one tendon is what allows your ankle and foot to perform high-intensity movements like changing directions and sprinting.
Over time, the overuse of the Achilles can cause the tendon to rupture which can be devastating for an athlete's career and extremely painful to endure. To repair your Achilles, in most cases, you will have to have surgery, and if not healed or treated properly, your range of motion can be severely affected.
Now that we have talked about the scary stuff, let's talk about how to prevent these injuries from ever occurring by taking steps to understand our body and what it needs to remain healthy and stable. No one wants to miss out on a game for an injury, so do what it takes to keep it from happening in the first place, right?
For pitchers specifically, Stop Sports Injuries has a list of ways to prevent injuries caused by overuse of your pitching arm.
- Warm-up properly by stretching, running, and easy, gradual throwing
- Rotate playing other positions besides pitcher
- Concentrate on age-appropriate pitching
- Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons
- Don't pitch with elbow or shoulder pain, if the pain persists, see a doctor
- Don't pitch on consecutive days
- Don't play year-round
- Never use a radar gun
- Communicate regularly about how your arm is feeling and if there is pain
- Develop age-appropriate skills
- Emphasize control, accuracy, and good mechanics
- Master the fastball first and the change-up second, before considering breaking pitches
- Speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about baseball injuries or baseball injury prevention strategies
Here are more general preventative methods for all injuries listed above.
Strength & Conditioning
UPMC Sports Medicine suggests that it is important to take part in the preseason and in-season baseball strength and conditioning programs that your team offers so that your body is trained for the physical demands that your position requires.
Making sure that your muscles develop around the areas of your body that will receive the most physical strain. This will help protect them when an injury is likely to occur.
Stretching is a tried and true solution for injuries because a limber muscle or ligament can take much more physical strain than a tight one. A tight muscle, tendon, or ligament is the result of most tears that athletes endure, so why not stretch?
Taking the time before a game to warm up your body with a jog and a stretch routine can save you valuable time in your athletic career by keeping your body performing longer and keeping you from going through injury recovery time.
Acknowledge Overuse and Pain
IF YOU FEEL PAIN, STOP! One of the worst things you can do as an athlete is to push through the pain when it is unnecessary. It is important to acknowledge what is going on in your body and be vocal with those that can help you, so you aren’t overworking something that just isn’t working.
We have trainers and coaches that are there to know when you are reaching your body's limit and be honest with them if you need time to recover. Recovery is not a bad thing, take time to let your body heal by taking a day to rest, taking an ice bath, being seen by the trainer, and going to physical therapy.