Softball is a game played and enjoyed by women of all ages, including small children, adults and even professional athletes. Even though softball is considered a safe sport, like all athletes softball players occasionally experience injuries. While comparable to baseball injuries, there are differences between the games (for example, softball’s windmill pitch) that can cause other sport-specific injuries.
Softball players are typically prone to injuries of the shoulder, back, neck, elbow, forearm, wrist, and knee. Common conditions that affect softball players include tendonitis, back pain, sprains and strains, and ligament damage. Softball injuries can be acute (occur suddenly) or can develop over time due to overuse.
- 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, also the windmill pitch can result in overuse injuries like tendonitis.
- Catching can result in overuse injuries based on positioning and mechanics
- Players in the field or on the bases are prone to overuse injuries from incorrect throwing or sliding
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 the environment in which an athlete performs, which can include the level of competition: how much, how hard and how long play lasts.
Other common risk factors for softball injuries include
- Softball pitchers are not prone to injury any more than other players, however softball pitchers are prone to different injuries.
- The windmill motion of softball pitching places unique stress on the back, neck, shoulder, forearm, and wrist of the softball pitcher.
- Most softball injuries are overuse injuries and pitchers are at a risk for this type of injury.
Prevention and Performance
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, or 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:
- Overuse injuries are preventable with proper monitoring, in particularly of pitching technique
- Warm up prior to practice or a game with light running, stretching, and throwing.
- Have the pitcher rotate to other positions.
- Flexibility instead of strengthening needs to be stressed throughout the season for pitchers.
- Do not play with pain, and see a sports health care professional if pain persists.
- Do not pitch on multiple teams with overlapping schedules.
- A pitcher who is younger than 13 should not pitch more than two days in a row.
- Develop skills that are age appropriate.
- Technique should be emphasized over power and the force of the delivery of the ball
- Did you know that although softball injury rate is nearly equal to baseball, softball injuries result in less time lost from competition?
- Did you know that softball pitchers are not more prone to injury than players of other positions?
- Did you know that controlling pitch count is paramount to avoiding elbow injuries? Pitch count is dependant on age of the player.
- Did you know that an athlete should return to play after an injury only after the athlete has been granted clearance from a sports health professional?
- Did you know that radar guns should only be used during competition to record best pitch speed versus change up and only with the age 15 and up age bracket?
- Did you know that leading sports health professionals recommend that athletes not play the same sport year round?
- Did you know that girls younger than 12 years should only pitch for two consecutive days, and girls older than 13 years should only pitch for three consecutive days?
- Pitchers should have two days of rest from pitching, and rest means no pitching even during batting practice?
- On the second day the pitcher may participate in hitting and field drills
Example throwing limitations:
8-10 years 50 pitches/game max 80 pitches/two day max
11-12 years 65 pitches/game max 95 pitches/two day max
13-14 years 80 pitches/game max 195 pitches/week max
15-over 100 pitches/game max 240 pitches/week max
- Shoulder tendinitis
- Elbow tendinitis
- Wrist tendinitis
- Anterior knee pain
- Patella femoral knee pain syndrome
- Low Back pain
- Knee sprain
- Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) knee