With spring’s warm weather and sunny days, you’ll soon begin to see teams of kids lining up at parks to play baseball. Baseball is America’s favorite pastime. It’s a classic, patriotic sport. When people think of baseball, they are likely thinking of cracker jacks, home runs, and the song, “Take me out to the ball game.” Although baseball is a fun, American tradition, it’s not necessarily the safest. Baseball athletes of all ages and skill levels are at risk of the same injuries.
Rotator Cuff Tears
Baseball is made up of three main actions: throwing, catching and hitting. The pitcher and the players in the field all make fast, overhand throws either to pitch or to throw the ball to a plate. These repetitive movements of overhand throwing can strain the shoulder’s rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint which keeps your upper arm bone in place. Too much strain on a rotator cuff can lead to tendonitis or even a tear, both of which take longer to heal.
An orthopedic doctor may suggest a nonsurgical treatment plan to treat rotator cuff injuries such as resting, avoiding activities that stimulate shoulder pain, medications, and physical therapy.
To stabilize a throw, athletes use the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow. In cases of excessive use or physical impact, the UCL becomes strained. UCL injuries are easy to spot from out of control pitches, inner elbow pain, and joint instability.
Depending on the extent of the injury and your health goals, a doctor may prescribe a treatment of rest and physical therapy or surgery.
Like the UCL, the knee’s ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) add stability. As baseball players are up to bat, they are ready to run. If they make it to first base and suddenly need to stop to avoid getting out, that action might lead to an ACL or MCL tear. Likewise, tears can happen if a player is planning to steal a base and they accidentally twist their knee with their foot planted or if they land on a flexed knee while sliding into the home base.
For ACL and MCL injuries, doctors will start will a R.I.C.E method of treatment (rest, ice, compress, elevate) and then start you on rehabilitative therapy. For ACL injuries, your doctor may recommend surgery, especially if you want to continue playing baseball.
Make the motion of swinging a bat or an overhead throw. What did your lower back do? Repetitive twisting or strain on the lower back can sometimes result in fractured vertebrae. This is called spondylosis. If left untreated, spondylosis can cause painful back spasms affecting the back and hamstrings.
Treatment for spondylolysis includes rest, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medicine. However, if the spondylolysis has progressed far enough that a vertebra has slipped out of place, it could require spinal fusion surgery.
With fastballs flying right toward the catcher, they have to think fast. Catchers must be prepared to catch whatever the pitcher throws at them, even with the batter ready to hit it. Balls that aren’t hit by the batter and not caught by the catcher sometimes end up hitting the catcher. Even with protective equipment, hard hits can cause concussions.
Treatment for concussions typically includes rest and medications for headache pain. However, if headache pain persists after a week, make an appointment immediately.
Golf and baseball have more in common than some might think--including the injury, epicondylitis. In golf, it’s referred to as “golfer’s elbow” though in baseball they call it “thrower’s elbow.” It causes pain in the inner elbow which flares up due to overuse.
To treat Epicondylitis, you’ll want to use the R.I.C.E method, take pain relievers, go to physical therapy, and use an elbow split or strap.
How to Avoid Injuries
To avoid injuries in baseball, always make sure you warm up before playing. No matter how old or how good of a player you are, warming up will help prepare your muscles for strains and keep them protected.
Be sure to exercise other muscle groups during the baseball offseason to give your arms and upper bodies a proper rest.
Listen to your body
It’s normal to feel sore after a tough practice or a long game, but if that soreness lingers, listen to your body. If you are continuously feeling pain or soreness, talk to your trainer or orthopedic doctor about possible injuries.
Baseball may not be everybody’s favorite pastime, but it is a fun and traditional game. It is enjoyable to feel the sensation of hitting the ball, catching it in your mitt, and throwing it. However, it is helpful to know what injuries you may be susceptible to so you can identify if they manifest later. If you are feeling any pain, consult with one of the sports medicine experts at Biddulph, Huntsman, & Dalling Orthopedic Surgery.