With ever-warming days in Seattle, and the Major League Baseball season in full swing, many people are taking to the fields once again to partake in America’s favorite pastime. As with every sport, there is a chance for a player to suffer an injury amidst play. Although baseball may not be as contact heavy as other sports (such as football), there are still a number of injuries players can avoid by proactively applying preventative strategies.
The most common injuries for players have a greater chance of occurring in the muscle groups with the most stress placed upon them in a sport that involves frequent stops and starts, and quick changes of direction: The shoulders, the elbows, and the knees. A higher incidence of injury is more likely if a participant does not take the time to stretch or properly warm-up prior to use. Even while taking precautions it is still possible to suffer injury in the middle of play from the extreme forces placed upon the body.
A Torn Rotator Cuff: The Most Common Injury in Baseball
The act of throwing the baseball is a central part of any baseball game, and if a pitcher does this too frequently without proper rest there is a high chance of injuring the shoulder in a number of ways. The main injury suffered in the shoulder is a torn rotator cuff as a result of overworking the area. The rotator cuff of the shoulder controls the range of movement for the arm, and is handled by four muscles working in unison (the teres minor, subscapularis, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus).
A rotator cuff injury is an injury to any part of the musculature of the shoulder. This can be damage to the tendons of the joint, or the muscles allowing for movement, rotating, or stabilization. Continuous use of this area will stretch the tendons holding the ball joint until the ball of the shoulder has too much freedom of movement. This puts excess stress onto the tendons causing large amounts of pain.
Usually the rotator cuff injury is minor and can be treated without surgery and simply heal with time. Having the player adopt a very relaxed schedule as pain dictates, and perform light exercises of the injured area typically leads to a full recovery. But any injury in this area can lead to a tear and should be evaluated by a physician, as a tear can progress resulting in limited movement and strength in the joint.
Torn Knee Cartilage
The second most common injury occurs in the knees as a result of a sudden jerk or twist, such as in a snap-change of direction during running, or to catch the ball out of the air. Most often the injury is located in the knee cap, the meniscus. Sudden impacts, pivoting, twisting or decelerating puts stress on the meniscus. The meniscus is “C” shaped protective cushion, and since it is made of cartilage (and not bone) thus can be easily torn. Continuous use of your knee is required throughout the majority of the game, making any injury to the knee very serious and should be attended by a physician for a proper diagnosis.
Tendinopathy: Baseball Injuries from Repetitive Use
Injuries in baseball can be from accumulated trauma over time resulting in small tears in the muscles of the forearms and tendons, leading to increasing inflammation and weakness of the joint(s). This is a repetitive use injury, more so than a sudden, acute injury that results in instant pain and inflammation of the tendon or joint.
Baseball players also commonly suffer from “Tennis Elbow” (lateral epicondylitis), or “Golfer’s Elbow” (medial epicondylitis). While the injuries are named for their main sport, they are not uncommon to find in baseball players due to the undeviating stress on their soft tissue and joints. Tennis Elbow is a tearing of the tendons of the outside of the elbow, with Golfer’s Elbow being a tearing on the inside. These can occur simply by repetitive movements and overuse of the muscles without proper resting periods, such as in long days of pitching or hitting.
While these baseball injuries are the most common players suffer, there are pre-emptive steps that can be made to prevent them. Proper stretching and a general conditioning regimen pre-game can reduce the risk associated with repetitive use and keep strains, sprains, and tears at bay ensuring a fun, and injury-free baseball season.