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Sport Specific Injuries: Baseball & Softball

by Alan Williams, PT, OTR/L, ATC, CSCS

Known as the “all-American pastime,” baseball often appears in nostalgic montages alongside fireworks, apple pie, and the statue of Liberty. The sport’s heroes, such as Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, seem larger than life, propelling themselves and their sport into legendary status. And yet baseball has always been accessible to the Everyman. Anyone can play just about anywhere – all you need is a stick and a ball. From T-ball to the Special Olympics, from rec leagues to the MLB, just about everyone can find a game to participate in. That’s the greatness of baseball.

Although they don’t carry the same injury risk as football or hockey, baseball and softball players still need to be aware of their sport’s particular dangers. These can typically be divided into two categories: acute (sudden) injuries and chronic (long term) injuries.

Acute injuries tend to be the more hazardous ones. A bat or ball to the head, a collision with another player, or a sudden change in direction can result in something as minor as bruises, sprains, or strains, or as major as concussions, broken teeth or bones, separated shoulders, or torn muscles or ligaments.

For these reasons, it’s crucial that players always wear the appropriate safety gear. Catchers aren’t the only ones who benefit from face guards, helmets, and protective padding; batters should at minimum always wear a helmet, but mouth and chest guards are a good idea, too. In addition, wearing the proper cleats can keep you in control when you need to make a sudden change of direction, and younger infielders can often benefit from the use of shin guards.

The next level of avoiding acute injury is to use proper technique. Learning the correct way to slide, tag, catch a fly ball or line drive, etc., can save many players from unnecessary pain and lost playing time. This applies as equally to youngsters in T-ball as it does to adults joining their company’s rec team.

Although they don’t have the same dramatic quality as acute injuries, chronic injuries still deserve your time and attention. Shoulder, elbow, and back problems are extremely common in baseball and softball players, usually due to poor conditioning and/or overuse. Aside from keeping your body in shape (including regular cardiovascular, strength building, and flexibility workouts), the best way to avoid an overuse injury is to get adequate rest and use proper form.

While the phrase “throw like a girl” doesn’t have the same application anymore, many people of both sexes still don’t know the how to throw a ball. Your arm should swing in a circular motion with your hand coming above (but not behind) your head and following through across your body. Throwing without raising your hand above your head is called a sidearm throw. Sidearm throws are useful in many game situations, but because they put more stress on your shoulder, elbow, and wrist, they must be taught properly and should never be used as an exclusive means of throwing the ball.

It’s natural to be a little sore during the beginning parts of the season, but take these small aches seriously so they do not escalate and put you on the bench. Treat minor pains with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation), and see your physical therapist for injuries that get worse or don’t show improvement within seven days.

Don’t let an injury keep you from the diamond. Call 463-0022 today to schedule your FREE Pain Assessment!

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