Spring is here, and for many young athletes that means baseball season! In fact, over 10 million children and adolescents play baseball each year in the United States. While it is a great way to stay active, injuries can occur. The most common baseball injuries are sprains, strains, cuts, and contusions. Although baseball is a non-contact sport, sometimes serious injuries occur due to impact with a ball, bat, or another player.
Shoulder and elbow overuse injuries are very common in baseball athletes due to the repetitive nature of the sport. The most common overuse injuries include ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries and rotator cuff injuries. Typically, pitchers have the highest risk of injury. Especially those that pitch on consecutive days, throw with higher velocity, or throw when their arm is fatigued. These elbow and shoulder injuries are widely preventable. Here are some tips for a safe and injury-free season.
Warm up and stretch
Always take time to warm up with walking or running, followed by stretching. A few stretches that help maintain flexibility in shoulders include shoulder circles, arm circles, triceps stretch, chest stretch, and hugs (raise your arms sideways at chest height, then gently swing your arms across your body to hold the back of your shoulders).
Use proper equipment
Make sure all equipment fits properly and is worn correctly. Always wear a batting helmet at the plate, waiting your turn on deck, and during base running.
Follow Pitching guidelines
17-18 – 105 pitches per day
13-16 – 95 pitches per day
11-12 – 85 pitches per day
9-10 – 75 pitches per day
7-8 – 50 pitches per day
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends not allowing your child to play one sport year round; taking regular breaks and playing other sports is essential to skill development and injury prevention.
Cool down and stretch
Stretching reduces muscle soreness and keeps muscles flexible, which helps prevent injuries. This is often neglected due to time constraints.
Both coaches and parents should be responsive to young pitchers who complain of arm or shoulder pain. Be sure to seek out medical care for shoulder pain or elbow pain that does not go away or that comes back every time a child resumes playing. An injured player’s symptoms must be completely gone before returning to play.