Baseball is America’s national past time. It is a game played and enjoyed by everyone from small children to adults and even professional athletes. Even though baseball is considered a safe sport, like all athletes baseball players occasionally experience injuries. Baseball injuries can be acute (occur suddenly) or can develop over time due to overuse.
Baseball players are typically prone to shoulder (18%), ankle (14%) and head or face (10%) injuries. Common injuries include sprains (21%) strains (20%) contusions (16%) fractures (14%) and concussions (3%.) Due to the nature of baseball, where a relatively hard ball can be thrown at high speeds baseball players are at a high risk for soft tissue injuries including bruises, cuts and scrapes.
- Being hit with the ball or a bat, resulting in soft tissue injuries
- Sliding or diving into a base
- Using improper equipment and playing techniques or mechanics
- Throwing too much or too hard can injure the shoulder and elbow, particularly the rotator cuff, labrum and biceps
- An acute event may be triggered by repetitive stress and strain on the structures in the arm
- Throwing injuries that affect the elbow including the ulna collateral ligament and medial epicondyle
There are intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors for injury. Intrinsic factors are a child’s individual musculoskeletal issues, which can include skeletal immaturity (bones and joints that are still developing) or muscle weakness. Extrinsic factors are based on the environment in which an athlete performs. This can include the various levels of competition: how much, how hard and how long play lasts.
Other common risk factors for baseball injuries include:
- For high school athletes, injuries are more likely to occur during practice than during an actual game
- A high school pitcher is at a greater risk for injuring the shoulder (34%) rather than the elbow (19%) though both structures are susceptible to injury
- Catchers (25%) and outfielders (25%) are also at risk for a shoulder injury
- Only 9% of all baseball injuries require surgery to heal properly
Prevention and Performance
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission more than 627,000 baseball injuries are treated in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, and emergency rooms each year. The key to preventing these injuries lies in preseason screening for players of all ages. Potential risks for injury that can be identified with a preseason screening include asthma, allergies, heart conditions, and orthopedic conditions like muscles weakness or poor flexibility. It is also important for players to warm up properly prior to play. Low intensity exercises like running drills and stretching can help players prepare for a game and avoid injury.
Other ways to avoid injury include
- Pitchers are highly susceptible to shoulder injuries. Therefore, on days when they are not pitching, pitchers should avoid the positions of catcher and outfielder because these playters are also prone to shoulder injuries. The best position for pitchers to play when they are not on the mound is first base, because infield positions carry less risk of shoulder injury.
- Always use proper equipment including helmets with face shields, mouth guards and eye protection particularly for pitchers, infielders and batters at the high school level.
- If a player sustains an injury it is important to rest to avoid making the condition worse. For an athlete rest means stopping participation in the sport for a period of time to allow the pain to subside and the player’s strength to return
- Following an injury, initiating physical therapy can help a baseball player return to their previous level of function. A physical therapist will develop a plan of care for each individual patient’s specific injuries. A combination of manual therapy and exercise can be extremely beneficial for baseball players.
- Did you know that although baseball is a non-contact sport, colliding with the bat, the ball, or another player cause the majority of serious baseball injuries?
- Did you know that a common condition in young baseball players caused by repetitive throwing is called “Little Leaguer’s Elbow” (medial apophysitis)? If a child experiences elbow pain, restricted range of motion or locking at the elbow joint they should stop throwing and consult a physician
- Did you know that controlling pitch count is paramount to avoiding elbow injuries? Pitch count is dependant on age of the player.
8-10 years 50 pitches/game max 75 pitches/week max
11-12 years 75 pitches/game max 100 pitches/week max
13-14 years 75 pitches/game max 125 pitches/week max
15-16 years 109 pitches/game max 2 games/week max
17-18 years 105 pitches/game max 2 games/week max
- Did you know that playing a single sport year round can cause young athletes to develop poor flexibility and muscles weakness due to using the same muscles over and over?
- Did you know that more than 30% of pitchers experience shoulder pain, and 25% of pitchers experience elbow pain?
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Osteoarthritis of the Knee
- Patella Tendonitis
- Rotator Cuff Injury
- Medial Epicondylitis
- Shin Splints
- Shoulder Bursitis
- Elbow Bursitis
- Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
- DeQuervain’s Tendonitis
- Wrist Tendonitis
- ACL Injury
- MCL Injury
- PCL Injury
- Hamstring Pull or Tear
- Knee Meniscus Injury
- Shoulder Dislocation