Baseball (and softball) season is here, and ball diamonds everywhere are packed with players and fans—and we’re not only talking about the pros, but youth baseball, Little League and recreational softball leagues, too.
Like any athlete, softball and baseball players aren’t immune to the risk of injury while playing the game. The most common injuries in baseball and softball involve mild injuries to the soft tissues, such as muscle strains and ligament sprains. These injuries, especially in the shoulder and elbow, are commonly overuse injuries due to repetitive motion and stress on the arm.
Some of the most common injuries in baseball include:
- Shoulder injuries, including tendinitis and torn rotator cuff injuries
- Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
- Bursitis of the shoulder and elbow
- Muscle strains in the back
- Herniated (slipped) discs
- ACL and MCL knee injuries
- Ruptured tendons
- Stress fractures
Preventing injuries in baseball
Not all injuries can be prevented, but it is possible to reduce a player’s risk of an overuse injury, which could be a season-ending injury. Overuse injuries in youth athletes are becoming more common as more young athletes begin to focus on one sport and train year-round. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and STOP Sports injuries provides these tips to educate parents, coaches and athletes on how to prevent overuse injuries in youth baseball and softball:
- Limit your child to playing in just one sport per season.
- Do not allow your child to play just one sport year-round. Encourage them to choose different sports each season to promote cross training.
- Do not allow youth pitchers to pitch on consecutive days, on multiple teams or in overlapping seasons.
These prevention methods do not apply to kids alone; adult amateur athletes can also help prevent overuse injuries by following the recommended guidelines for youth. Cross training, strength training and regular stretching can also help reduce risk of injury.
When is it safe to return to play after an injury?
Before returning to play, be sure that you or your child’s symptoms have completely resolved. If the injury was a joint injury, the player should have no pain or swelling and must have regained full range of motion and strength. In the case of a concussion, the player should have no symptoms—either in rest or during exercise—and should be cleared by a physician before returning to play. If it is a shoulder or elbow injury due to overuse, the player should gradually return to play before returning to his or her normal position.
Don’t let an injury steal your fun this baseball and softball season. Take appropriate steps to protect yourself or your youth athlete from injuries. And remember: if you suffer a serious injury or if symptoms of a minor injury do not resolve quickly, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. Proper diagnosis of an injury is the first step to recovery.