After a long and brutal winter, spring has finally sprung in the Carolinas. For many of us, that means one thing – BASEBALL! Despite all of the fun we have and life lessons we learn on the diamond, we cannot ignore the fact that youth sports injuries are on the rise. For baseball players, that means plenty of sore shoulders and elbows, and even the occasional trip to the doctor’s office.
There are many potential causes for these injuries – poor throwing mechanics, overuse, flexibility or strength deficits- just to name a few. Once these injuries occur, they can be very difficult to treat, especially in-season where athletes are less willing to take prolonged rest, so prevention is really the key.
STOP Sports Injuries (www.stopsportsinjuries.com) is an organization dedicated to the prevention of these injuries, targeting the overuse aspect. They provide recommendations for various sports and resources for parents, coaches and athletes. Here a few key highlights for baseball players.
Take some time off from throwing during the year. This is a difficult suggestion for many to swallow, in this age of year round sports and early specialization. Some experts recommend 2-3 months, or even up to 4 months without touching a baseball. This does not mean sit on the couch and play video games! Athletes can play another non-throwing sport, lift weights, run, and do conditioning or other types of training for baseball that puts less stress on the arm.
Warm-up properly before games and practices – dynamic warm-up, jogging, progressive throwing to make sure the body is ready to perform
Avoid playing pitcher and catcher for the same team
Do not pitch through pain. Listen to your body and consult with your coach or a health care professional if pain or soreness persists.
Follow pitch counts and age-appropriate pitching guidelines established by Little League Baseball (www.littleleague.org)
Seek professional help to ensure that proper throwing mechanics are being used. We offer video analysis of throwing mechanics at OrthoCarolina, and I would be happy to consult on any issues or simply provide a screening exam.
It will take cooperation between parents, coaches, athletes, and healthcare professionals if we are going to make a meaningful decrease in the injury rates. Playing other sports during the year leads to improved overall athleticism and prevents burn out and muscle imbalances. If you are a baseball player, think about the long term health of your arm, and most importantly- have fun!
Chris Gabriel, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), practices physical therapy with the OrthoCarolina Wellness Center. Chris and his team treat a range of patients for orthopedic and sports medicine needs. He enjoys working with various local high school, college, and professional sports teams.