Every sport carries its own risks when proper training or safety measures are not put in place. Even though baseball and softball are not contacted sports, the frequent throwing, bat-swinging, running, and catching high-speed balls can lead to a variety of soft tissue injuries, both from overuse and from acute trauma. Due to the repetitive nature of the sport, throwing overuse injuries to the shoulders and elbows are most prominent. Lower extremity injuries can also occur and are seen mostly among runners while rounding the bases, with changing speed and direction. These injuries can happen to any professional or amateur player and can keep them out of the game for days or weeks at a time, and in worst case scenario can keep the player out for a season. Proper warm up and stretches, adequate training in techniques, using appropriate equipment, and ensuring safe playing environment are all essential to reducing the risk of injury from the sport.
Common injuries in Baseball
- Shoulder impingement
- Rotator cuff tear
- Shoulder instability
- Medial epicondylitis (Little league elbow)
- Muscle strain
- Meniscus Tear
This condition is caused by narrowing of space in the shoulder joint with overhead movements like pitching and throwing in baseball. Over time, it can lead to inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons as they pass through the joint, causing pain and irritation. Treatment strategies include stretching and exercises to create more space in the joint to reduce stress and allow tendons to move freely. You can try doing pendulums, shoulder blade squeezes, neck and arm stretch to alleviate symptoms. If symptoms persist or get worse, contact your doctor or consult a Physical Therapist.
Rotator cuff tear
A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) that in combination help stabilize arm in the socket during the motion of pitching. Repetitive stress on the rotator cuff muscles can cause fraying of tendons and as damage progresses over time, the tendon can completely tear. Acute trauma, like a fall, can also cause a tear. Do not attempt to treat this condition by yourself but seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Loosening of the structures that keep the ball of the shoulder in the socket causes shoulder instability. In some cases, an unstable shoulder can slip out of the socket increasing the risk for dislocation, which is when the shoulder joint comes completely out of the socket. Repeated shoulder motions can stretch out the joint capsule and weakens surrounding muscles. Pitchers are at high risk for shoulder instability. Strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles and the other shoulder blade musculature are the key to address this condition. Consult a physical therapist or appropriate medical professional to evaluate your risk of shoulder instability and to develop a strengthening program.
Medial epicondylitis or Little league elbow is an overstress injury that occurs as a result of repetitive throwing motions. In baseball, the pitcher moves his wrist down and in to complete pitching, especially a screwball, which stresses the tendon that anchors your forearm muscles to the bony bump on the inside of your elbow. Acute inflammation associated with this condition can be managed with rest and ice. Performing wrist stretches and strengthening exercises as tolerated can augment the recovery. If symptoms persist or get worse, contact your doctor or consult a Physical Therapist.
A muscle strain or pulled muscle is when your muscle is overstretched or torn. This usually happens as a result of fatigue, overuse, or improper use of a muscle. In baseball or softball, the most commonly strained muscles tend to be the hamstrings and the quadriceps because these muscles are activated during running, helping the player with rapid acceleration and deceleration. Other muscles that get strained are the calf muscles and oblique abdominals. The calf muscle is vulnerable to strain while running as they kick in during push-off and deceleration, while obliques often get injured during power swings as these muscles help rotate the trunk. Minor strains can be treated with the R.I.C.E. method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If symptoms persist or get worse, contact your doctor or consult a Physical Therapist.
The meniscus is the shock-absorbing cartilage of the knee joint. Any forceful twist or rotation of the knee with your full weight on it can lead to a torn meniscus. Baseball or softball players are susceptible to this injury if proper techniques are not used when swinging a bat at the plate and with running or sliding. Catching or locking in the knee, clicking sensation, pain, especially with twisting and rotation of the knee, and swelling is the most common symptoms of a meniscal tear. Do not attempt to treat this condition by yourself but seek medical attention as soon as possible.