Top 10 Worst Injuries for Pitchers
No player ever expects an injury, and it can be heartbreaking to have to sit out from playing the sport you love. Pitchers are vital to a baseball team, and when they get injured, it can feel like a piece is missing. There are some injuries that pitchers are more susceptible to, and we will explain the top 10 worst injuries for pitchers. We will also tell you some of the best ways for pitchers to prevent these injuries to keep them from happening to you!
Why Do Pitchers Get Injured
As you might have guessed, with pitchers, many of their injuries happen with their arm, from shoulder injuries to elbow injuries and even wrist injuries. Many pitchers get injured due to overuse and the strain they put on their arms from the repetitive pitching motion. Luckily, most injuries are easily treated with a couple of weeks of rest if caught early. Unfortunately, some injuries can be more devastating, and a pitcher could be out for closer to 6 months.
Top 10 Worst Injuries For Pitchers
Unfortunately, not every player can stay healthy and at the top of their game forever, and sometimes they have setbacks and injuries. We have created a list of the ten worst injuries for pitchers below:
- Labral tear, SLAP tear
- Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL), “Tommy John Surgery”
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Shoulder instability
- Throwers elbow
- Glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD)
- Forearm tendonitis
- Olecranon stress fracture
- Ulnar neuritis
- Muscle strain
We will discuss each of these injuries more in-depth below, and later in this blog, we will give you some ideas on how to prevent injury before it happens to you!
1. Labral Tear
A labral tear is a shoulder injury that happens when the ring of fibrocartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket becomes torn. This tear is a common shoulder injury in baseball, usually for pitchers more than other positions.
As described by baseball players, the symptoms of a torn labrum are the feeling of the shoulder joint "catching" in the socket. This feeling is because the labrum is loose and makes the entire joint feel very unstable. You can usually tell you have a torn labrum based on the loss of speed you have while pitching a fastball.
A torn labrum has proven to be very difficult for doctors to detect. If you feel you may have torn your labrum, be sure to consult multiple doctors and reach a consensus. Surgery is necessary to repair the injury for more severe labral tears, but it can be challenging to determine. One specific type of labrum tear is the most feared injury in baseball, especially for pitchers. It is the most complex injury to recover from and return to the same level of play as before. It is called a SLAP tear, and SLAP stands for “superior labrum anterior to posterior.” Your bicep is attached to your labrum at two points, and a SLAP tear means you ripped both ends where your bicep is attached to your labrum. Luckily research is constantly evolving, and technology is improving to help detect labrum and SLAP tears earlier and find better ways to treat them.
2. Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL), “Tommy John Surgery.”
Ulnar collateral ligament, UCL, is a sprain of the elbow. If the injury is more severe, like a torn UCL, it's likely surgery is needed, and is referred to as “Tommy John Surgery.” Unfortunately, UCL injuries are considered the most common injuries for pitchers.
The recovery process for Tommy John Surgery is longer than most injuries taking close to 6 months, and you can read more about Tommy John Surgery here. One of the positives to Tommy John Surgery is the likelihood for a pitcher to return to the same level of play after surgery and rehab is very high.
The UCL is a crucial ligament for pitchers because it provides support and stability in their throwing arm. When pitchers injure their UCL, it’s more than likely due to repetitive overuse and strain on their elbow from pitching. Some symptoms from a UCL injury are the sudden loss of control while pitching, pain in the inner part of your elbow, and the sense of instability in your elbow.
3. Rotator Cuff Injuries
A rotator cuff is a group of 4 different muscles that creates the movement of the shoulder. Since pitchers make repetitive motions when throwing, especially overhead throwing, it can irritate the rotator cuff.
Some symptoms include pain in the rotator cuff while pitching and pain in the rotator cuff while resting. In addition, you may feel more of a limited range of motion of your shoulder. If you start to feel any of these symptoms, it's best to take some time off to heal so the injury does not develop into something worse and possibly tear.
4. Shoulder Instability
Shoulder instability is also referred to as “dead arm.” This is caused by overuse and sometimes just strain that gets put on the shoulder from pitching. The muscles around the shoulder can get fatigued, which causes the joint to feel unstable and unable to move as it should. This injury can rehab reasonably quickly with rest and time off.
5. Throwers Elbow
A Throwing elbow is technically called medial epicondylitis. The injury also usually occurs due to overuse. It can feel like a gradual pain on the inside of the elbow. Some pitchers develop a pitcher's elbow because of incorrect technique or from throwing too hard.
Pitchers can develop a pitcher's elbow from strenuous pitching. It often happens during the pitching motion, after you throw, when your forearm and hand snap quickly to the side of your elbow. This motion is called valgus forces, and it wears down the cartilage in your bone, which ultimately can cause pain related to the pitcher's elbow injury.
6. Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit (GIRD)
Glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, GIRD, happens to pitchers because of the abnormal motion of the arm while pitching and the movement being very fast. The technicality of GIRD is from the ligaments at the front of the shoulder getting loose, which makes the ligaments in the back of your shoulder less flexible. This problem creates less range of motion and may cause your shoulder to feel stiffer. In addition, it can increase your chances of labral and rotator cuff tears, which are much more severe, so be sure to take time off to rest if you have symptoms of GIRD.
7. Forearm Tendonitis
Forearm tendonitis is a fairly common injury for many pitchers. It usually occurs in the flexor and pronator tendons of the forearm. The tendons connect the wrist to the palm and stretch to the bone in the elbow. The injury is from overuse or improper mechanics, which can create an irritating sensation and sometimes a popping feeling.
8. Olecranon Stress Fracture
The olecranon stress fracture occurs in the bony part of your elbow, and it is one of the most common areas for pitchers to get a stress fracture. A pitcher is more susceptible to this injury if the muscles surrounding their elbow are not strong enough to absorb the shock from the motion of pitching.
9. Ulnar Neuritis
The ulnar neuritis is the ulnar nerve that wraps around the bony bump of your elbow. This nerve is the largest unprotected nerve in the body. Therefore it is a susceptible area. Many refer to it as the “funny bone.” The injury, ulnar neuritis, happens when a pitcher irritates the nerve from the snapping motion when they pitch. The angle of a pitcher's arm when it goes from being cocked back to throwing toward the plate.
10. Muscle Strain
At one point or another, a pitcher or any baseball player will have anywhere from a minor to more severe muscle strain. For pitchers, some of the most common muscle strains are oblique muscle strains. Hopefully, you or your trainer catches the muscle strain early enough to treat it before it becomes a more severe injury, like the ones listed above.
How to Prevent Injury
Many injuries in baseball, especially for pitchers, occur from overuse, be sure to listen to your body and know when you have hit your limit and need a break. Here are some preventative measures you can do to reduce your risk of injury
- Stretching is one of the best ways to maintain healthy and flexible muscles. Be sure to take time out of your day to work on flexibility. Also, make sure to stretch before and after practices and games.
- Limit pitching counts. Like we mentioned before, many injuries for pitchers occur from overuse. You know your body's limit, so be sure to follow a pitch count specific to you.
- Learn the proper mechanics. Another leading cause of injury is poor mechanics that can create stress on a pitcher's throwing arm. Focus on improving your pitch and follow proper mechanics to reduce the chance of injury
- Conditioning and strength training, building muscle is another excellent way to avoid injury. Building stronger muscles in your arms, forearms, wrists, and shoulders can be a preventative measure from injury.
- Rest, be sure to take time off, and rejuvenate.
Hopefully, these injuries have not scared you away from the sport of baseball. Many players are lucky enough to have never had any injuries or only a few minor injuries in their entire career. If you listen to your body and take preventative measures to prevent injuries, you will be more likely to stay healthy and continue playing baseball!