When spring arrives, it means one thing for many athletes and fans: baseball season. However, daily practices, double-headers and tournaments that stretch across the weekend can take a toll on a young athlete’s body. Jeff Baggett, Certified Athletic Trainer and Program Outreach Manager at the Children’s Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, shares his insight on baseball injuries and ways players can stay healthy throughout the season.
What are the most common baseball injuries?
“Baseball players, and particularly pitchers, are most likely to become injured from repetitive stress and over-use from constantly throwing and catching the ball,” says Baggett. “We see a lot of the same type of injuries in baseball as we do in other sports, but it’s where and how players are injured that can be different.”
Common types of injuries in baseball include:
- Sprains and strains. Baseball players are susceptible to sprains to the arm, shoulder and elbow from pitching and throwing, and ankle sprains from base running.
- Fractures. Broken or fractured fingers, hands and wrists can be common among baseball players from impact with the ball, bases or other players, as well as from swinging the bat.
- Concussions. Catchers are most at-risk for suffering from a concussion.
Fatigue is the common culprit
“The number one indicator of all injuries is fatigue,” shares Baggett. “Parents know their children better than anyone else. Watching for warning signs of fatigue can help prevent serious baseball injuries that can result in time off or even surgery.”
Fatigue can be caused by many factors, including:
- Playing year-round baseball
- Extended times of play, such as double-headers, long innings or tournament weekends
- High pitch counts or pitch limits
- Playing on multiple teams at the same time of year
- High leverage situations
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Playing pitcher and catcher in the same game
“Research has shown that when athletes are in what we call, high leverage situations – such as tight games, loaded bases or tournament play – they become more physically and mentally drained compared to a typical game or practice,” Baggett explains. “That added layer of stress could increase an athlete’s risk of becoming injured. It’s important to make sure that athletes are getting the rest and recovery they need between those intense times of play to stay healthy.”
Fortunately, there are clear warning signs that coaches and parents can watch for that signal a player is getting fatigued, such as:
- Decreased performance
- Slower reaction time
- Loss of ball control
- Loss of interest
- Complaints of soreness or inability to get loose
Pitchers are particularly at risk of suffering injuries caused by fatigue. Pitch limits restrict the number of pitches thrown in a game, but it’s still important for coaches and parents to keep an eye on pitchers for signs of fatigue, which include:
- Decreased velocity
- Loss of proper mechanics like elbow height at foot contact
- Taking extra time between pitches
- Changes in breathing
- Changes in stride length and knee bend at ball release
How to reduce risk of baseball injury
“Proper preparation, training and recovery can go a long way in preventing injuries,” says Baggett. “Players, parents and coaches should work together and keep open lines of communication to share what’s working, what’s not and any concerns they may have.”
Baggett also suggests the following tips to keep young athletes healthy this baseball season:
- Fuel properly. Create a fueling program that gives players the energy they need. A sports dietitian can help athletes develop hydration and fueling strategies to meet the unique demands of practice and competition.
- Be aware. Make sure players know the difference between pain and soreness. “Generally, anything that lingers is a sign of injury,” Baggett explains. “If an athlete is still complaining of pain or soreness the next day, you should schedule an appointment to see a sports medicine provider.”
- Prep for play. A proper warm-up before practice and games can help loosen muscles and reduce risk of injury. Players can warm-up with simple movements like lunges, jumps or light jogging to get their heart rates up and break a sweat.
- Cross-train. Training in other sports can also help reduce an athlete’s risk of injury. “Playing other sports outside of baseball season teaches athletes important skill sets that advance their baseball play while giving them a chance to rest their arms and upper bodies,” Baggett adds.
The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine aims at reducing the number of children being sidelined from injury. Learn more about our programs and services.
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