Ah, baseball. America’s favorite pastime. Millions of people have enjoyed playing this sport since its inception back in the mid-1800s and many more continue to discover its charm to this day.
But baseball isn’t just about fun and games.
Did you know that baseball can cause injuries that send more than 100,000 kids to the E.R each year? Hundreds of Major league players also end up in the disabled list, according to a study conducted from 2002 to 2008. On top of that, baseball turns out to be the leading cause of fatalities in kids who play sports between the ages of 5 to 14.
Baseball may be America’s pastime, but like any other sport out there, players put themselves at risk for injury every time they head out to the field.
Here’s everything you need to know about the top baseball injuries, including their causes, prevention, and treatment:
The ulnar collateral ligament or UCL is a band of connective tissue responsible for stabilizing your elbow joint. Located in the inner part of the elbow joint, the UCL basically connects your forearm to your upper arm and keeps both stabilized and well-aligned. This ligament allows people to make a throwing motion with their arms.
Now, imagine how this ligament would look like after months of intense throwing and pitching. Damage to the UCL often occurs due to repetitive stress from overhead motions commonly executed in baseball. Volleyball and tennis players can also experience the same injury.
When the UCL tears from too much use and abuse, one can feel pain and inflammation on the inner elbow. There could be stiffness, difficulty in moving the arm and some bruising. The elbow can also feel unstable, tingly or numb. Additionally, the player’s grip strength may be affected.
A rotator cuff tear is another common baseball injury. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons found in the area where the arm meets the shoulder. It helps secure the arm to the shoulder socket and controls a person’s ability to rotate, lift and throw.
Like a UCL injury, rotator cuff tears are especially common among pitchers. Repetitive stress and excessive overhead throwing can lead to the tearing of the muscle. An acute injury, like a bad fall, can also cause the rotator cuff to tear.
The rotator cuff can tear partially, or it can tear all the way. Either condition can cause pain, inflammation, and loss of function. Weakness and a crackling sensation can also be present.
Labral tears--- or the tearing of the fibrocartilage surrounding the shoulder socket--- is another common related condition.
Pulled muscles or muscle strains are extremely common in any sport. Baseball can be especially tough on one’s obliques, or the muscles that surround the abdomen. These core muscles are responsible for proper hitting and throwing. Both hitters and pitchers are equally susceptible to this condition.
Muscle strains are usually classified into three categories, depending on how bad the injury is. Mild muscle strains are most common and players can usually bounce back from this injury after a couple days of rest and icing.
Moderate and severe muscle strains take a bit longer to heal. Sometimes, severe muscle strains can lead to the rupture or tearing of the muscle and may need surgical intervention.
Can you imagine getting hit in the face by a baseball flying at an average speed of 90 miles per hour? That can seriously hurt or even knock you out!
Baseball may not be a contact sport, but it has its own share of bruises, fractures, and even concussions from coming in contact with the ball, bat or crashing with other players on the field. In fact, getting hit by a bat or baseball is the most common reason for injury among kids who play the sport. A lot of young baseball players also get fractures (usually in the arm, wrist, and leg) from sliding or batting.
Proper form and the use of safety equipment can significantly reduce the chances of fractures and concussions while on the field.
About 30% of all baseball injuries occur in the lower body, affecting outfielders more than pitchers. Conditions like a torn ACL is quite common, due to running and overexertion. A torn ACL can lead to pain and weakness. To read more about ACL injuries, check out this article.
Fatigue is a common denominator among baseball injuries, especially in children and teens. Younger players can easily get tired after extended hours of practice, too many pitches or even after a particularly intense game. A tired player can lose focus and interest in the game and can exhibit lessened throwing velocity, reaction time and control over the ball. If the kid is showing signs of fatigue, it’s always best to let them rest to avoid further stress and injury.
Treatment depends on the severity of each injury, as well as the physical condition of the affected person. Still, it’s best to take the following first aid measures to prevent further harm:
Prevention is always better than cure, so follow these guidelines to avoid injury while playing baseball:
Proper warm-ups are essential before undergoing any physical activity. Stretching and warm-up exercises like lunges, calisthenics, jumping jacks and even light jogging help prepare your body for intense action, so make sure to do them properly before training.
Don’t discount the importance of a proper cool-down, either. Cool-down exercises help bring your heart and breathing rates back to normal and are essential in keeping your muscles healthy and flexible.
Cardio and strength training can go a long way when playing sports. Cardio or aerobic exercises like jogging, running and even swimming can significantly improve one’s stamina and endurance. These exercises keep your heart and lungs running for a longer period of time, increasing oxygen delivery and effectively lessening fatigue.
Strength training is helpful in building healthy muscles. These include resistance exercises like lunges, squats, pushups, and crunches. If your muscles are strong, you’ll have lesser chances of getting strains and tears.
Like warmups and exercises, proper form and body mechanics are essential in every physical activity. Knowing how to use your body and its proper range of motion can prevent overexertion, strains, sprains, and dislocations.
Practice proper running, pitching, catching and sliding techniques to avoid injury. Falls and bumps are inevitable in sports, so know how to fall without causing additional harm to oneself and others. Learn how to roll while protecting your head and back when breaking a fall.
Protective gear and equipment can mean the difference between an afternoon spent in the field and one spent in the emergency room. Make sure to wear masks (full face, if possible), well-fitting gloves, and cleats that offer adequate support when playing ball.
Studies also show that using a breakaway base can reduce injuries among athletes.
Strength from the outside begins from the inside. Make sure to fuel up with good, healthy carbs before a game so you don’t end up fatigued. Increased protein intake in the diet makes for strong tissues and muscles.
Dehydration is dangerous in any scenario so make sure to replace lost fluids and electrolytes by drinking water and sports drinks.
As mentioned earlier, injuries among younger baseball players are often caused by overexertion and fatigue. Set proper pitch limits among younger players to avoid repetitive stress and fatigue. It is not recommended for younger athletes to play all year long, or for them to play or train for multiple tournaments. Allow adequate rest periods and know how to set limits.
Baseball is a great sport that a lot of people enjoy. Don’t let the fear of injury stop you from having a fun time on the diamond! Knowing the reasons behind these common baseball injuries should help you take measures to stay safe and healthy before, during and after a game. Have fun and stay injury-free on the pitch!