Don’t let these common ball-playing injuries take you out of the ballgame
America’s favorite summer pastime has provided fans with entertainment for centuries.
From home-run-record breakers to the stunning 2016 World Series win by the Chicago Cubs, baseball has captured the attention of fans and non-fans alike.
With the arrival of spring and summer, umpires are dusting off home plate as players of all ages head to the ball diamond to play ball.
Stay safe on the ball field.
Awareness of common baseball and softball injuries can help you reduce your chances of sitting on the bench this season.
Ankle sprains and Achilles tendon ruptures.
Stealing second base or sprinting to catch a fly ball puts increased pressure on a player’s feet and ankles. Fast moves and unbalanced landings can rupture an Achilles tendon or cause a sprained ankle.
Prevent ankle sprains and tendon ruptures by:
- Warming up the feet and ankles before playing ball.
- Strengthening the foot and ankle with weight-bearing exercises off the field.
- Stretching the foot and ankle before and after games or practice.
- Wearing supportive gear recommended by a sports medicine professional.
Repetitive pitching and throwing can cause elbow pain. Practice makes perfect, but working long hours to execute that perfect pitch or throw can also cause an overuse injury and elbow instability.
Elbow pain that occurs when the wrist bends toward the palm of the hand is a common symptom of medial epicondylitis or thrower’s elbow. Medical professionals treat thrower’s elbow more often than they treat lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow, but they see both types of injuries during the baseball and softball season.
To minimize the risk of an overuse elbow injury:
- Don’t play for more than one team during the regular season.
- Limit practice time.
- Don’t hold the bat too tightly.
- Vary the field positions during the season.
- Stop playing and seek medical treatment if you experience elbow pain.
Whether a player is pitching, hitting or throwing, his or her shoulder is actively engaged. The complex structure of the shoulder makes players susceptible to torn rotator cuffs, impingements and shoulder instability.
Sports medicine professionals suggest people strengthen the muscles supporting shoulder movement by completing arm-lifting exercises. They recommend using light weights and increasing the number of repetitions of shoulder exercises, rather than doing fewer reps using heavy weights.
To avoid shoulder injury:
- Limit practice time.
- Don’t throw or pitch when your arm or shoulder is tired.
- Don’t keep playing through the shoulder or arm pain.
Baseball and softball games require players to sprint and stop quickly to keep their foot planted firmly on base. As the leg twists or flexes under the added pressure of sudden starts and stops, players can tear the anterior (ACL) and medial (MCL) collateral ligaments supporting the knee. These fast movements also pose a risk to the meniscus, which cushions the bones of the knee.
To prevent ACL, MCL and meniscus tears:
- Strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee with squats and lunges during the pre-season.
- Maintain a proper strength ratio between the quadriceps and the hamstrings.
- Warm up and stretch the legs before asking them to dash, pivot or stop short.
Though they are not as common in baseball and softball as they are in football, concussions do occur on and around the ball diamond. Falls, player collisions, line drives and foul balls have caused concussions for players and fans, alike.
To reduce the number of concussions during a ballgame:
- Players should always wear the recommended protective headgear.
- Players and fans should always be aware of the ball’s location during the game.
- Batters should never throw the bat.
If a player or spectator experiences a blow to the head, the injury should be assessed by a medical professional as soon as possible. Whether they are mild or severe, all concussions are classified as a form of traumatic brain injury and require attention.
Knowing your risks and taking a few precautions can keep you on the field for the entire season. If you experience pain while playing baseball or softball, don’t ignore it. Playing through the pain can turn a minor injury into a more serious condition that can cause permanent damage.
If you have pain that lasts more than a week or interferes with movement, contact your primary care provider or an orthopaedic expert for an appointment.