What Are The Top Injuries In Baseball?

We know how much you love the sport of baseball... Stepping up to the plate, preparing to hit the pitch, sliding, and diving from base to base; But! We must warn you; there are quite a few dangers that come along with it. From as simple and easy as a sprained ankle to one of the rarest and painful injuries to occur during the sport —

Here are the top injuries to take place throughout the sport of baseball.

1. Rotator Cuff Tears

Rotator cuff tears are prevalent in baseball players, most frequently found in pitchers. Due to the constant wear and tear of frequent muscle movement, this can cause the muscles and tendons in the shoulder break down and, in the future, physically tear.

The rotator cuff comprises four muscles that come together as tendons to form a covering around the head of the upper arm bone: the humerus. The rotator cuff attaches the humerus to the shoulder blade to assist in lifting and rotating the arm. When one or more of the rotator cuff tendons is torn, the tendon no longer attaches to the head of the humerus, causing significant pain within the shoulder.

In many cases, a torn tendon is initially caused by the fraying of the tendons due to excessive force and mobility. In certain other circumstances, severe injury can cause a tear, such as heavy lifting or overhead activities. Two different types of incisions can occur:

2. Partial Tear

In this case, the tendon is damaged but does not entirely sever off.

3. Full-Thickness Tear

A full-thickness tear separates the entire tendon from the bone, creating a hole within the tendon.

A torn rotator cuff is usually a season-ending injury and has excellent potential to become a career-ending injury. A tear may heal with nonsurgical treatment in very few minor cases, but surgery is more than often needed to repair the tear and restore full strength and function within the shoulder. The healing process is usually a slow one, including physical therapy and strengthening exercises, but more often, players come back to continue their baseball careers.

4. Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) Injuries

The ulnar collateral ligament is another injury most commonly found in baseball pitchers. Mainly caused by the inflammation and repetitive stress to the ligaments in the elbow. The constant use and bending of the arm by throwing and hitting can cause the ligaments to break down and later on tear.

The ulnar collateral ligament complex is located inside the elbow (pinky or medial side). It is attached to the humerus (upper arm bone) on one side and the ulna (forearm bone). The UCL consists of three different bands or divisions: the anterior (front), posterior (back), and transverse (across) bands. The anterior band is the most important due to its use of stability for the elbow. When the ligament is injured or torn, the ligament stretches too long, causing the bones to move too much, leading to severe pain, a sense of instability or looseness, and even the inability to use or move the arm.

Major UCL tears require surgical repair, which is even suggested to be the best option for less severe tears. Due to the long healing process that comes with this injury, it is highly recommended to be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible for the best recovery and outcome.

Many baseball connoisseurs may recall another name for UCL reconstruction known as Tommy John surgery. Tommy John, a pitcher for the Dodgers in 1972-1974, underwent his almost career-ending injury by tearing his UCL. He was forced to miss the season of 1975 due to his recovery process but became the first pitcher to return to baseball after such a significant surgery successfully.

5. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears

One of the most common knee injuries to occur throughout baseball is the sprain or tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, also known as the ACL. This injury is mainly caused by initial use such as running from base to base, making a sudden stop, landing on the knee, or twisting the knee incorrectly. 

About half of all injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament occur alongside other damage to other structures within the knee, such as the articular cartilage, the meniscus, and other ligaments. Injured ligaments are also known as a sprain and are graded based on the severity of the injury:

  • Grade 1 Sprain: The ligament is mildly damaged and slightly stretched but can still help keep the knee joint in place.
  • Grade 2 Sprain: The ligament is stretched to the point where it becomes loose. This is also referred to as a partial tear of the ligament.
  • Grade 3 Sprain: Most commonly referred to as a full-thickness or complete tear of the ligament. The ligament has been split into two, and the knee joint is no longer in place.

Partial tears of the anterior cruciate ligament are rare, with most being complete or near-complete tears.

While certain sprains or tears can heal over time without surgical repair, many cases involving ACL tears in baseball require immediate medical attention and surgical repair. Cases not involving surgery use treatments such as bracing or wrapping the knee as well as physical therapy. Recovery time can range anywhere from 6 months to a year, depending on the injuries at stake.

6. Hand and Wrist Injuries

Baseball players frequently run into hand and wrist injuries due to the high speed and velocity in which the ball is moving. As well as common collisions with the ball, the ground, or the bat. These injuries can range from bruising to sprains, fractures, and dislocations, among others.

There has recently been an increase in hamate bone fractures among baseball players up to bat.

The hamate bone is located on the same side as the pinky finger, allowing perfect access for the ball or the bat to hit full force. These fractures are most often caused by the end of the bat colliding with the hand during the follow-through of the swing. During the collision, the handle of the bat strikes the hamate hook and slices it off. This can cause pain in the wrist or hand, swelling, and difficulty doing tasks such as swinging the bat or throwing the ball.

Treatment for a fractured hamate bone requires immobilization of the wrist unless untreated for long periods; the wrist may need surgical correction. Recovery time varies from 3-6 weeks based on the injuries at hand but, players are often always back on the field soon enough.

7. Muscle Sprains and Strains

Like many other injuries that occur throughout baseball, muscle sprains and strains are due to the overuse of the muscles and ligaments. In baseball, these types of damages are most commonly seen in the arms, legs, and back caused by the forces being overstretched or, in some cases, partially or entirely torn.

Symptoms will vary based on the severity of the injury but can include pain, swelling, bruising, and even muscle spasms. For severe muscle tears, immediate medical attention is recommended and may involve surgical treatment, while minor sprains and strains can be treated by rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).

With the frequency of joint sprains and strains, you’ll be back on the field in no time!

8. Head Injuries

One of the most common injuries to occur in just about any sport is a concussion. In baseball, this is mainly caused by players colliding with one another or being hit with the ball. There is the risk of an injury more severe than a concussion leading to internal or external bleeding and even death with any head injury.

Symptoms of a concussion can occur immediately after the injury or may become apparent within hours or days after the initial incident. Common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Loss of balance
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea

Additional or reoccurring symptoms may indicate a more severe and dangerous head injury.

Currently, Major League Baseball requires its players with concussions to undergo SCAT testing to ensure they are safe to return to the field. After the player experiences a concussion-specific, seven-day disabled list (must sit out for at least seven days) which “[allows] concussions to clear, prevent[s] players from returning prematurely and give[s] clubs a full complement of players in one’s absence.” Creating a safer environment for each player.

Final Thoughts

We hope this gave you more insight into the injuries that most commonly appear within the sport of baseball and hope you’ve learned the importance of seeking medical attention to ensure a safe and healthy recovery.

If you enjoyed this and are looking for more information on improving your game and doing it safely, check out Ryan Weiss’ coaching programs and his other training programs.