Baseball players are getting injured at higher rates than ever before. The injury trends, especially in young players, paint a grim picture:
- According to the Journal of Athletic Training, 74% of youth baseball players reported throwing-arm pain
- The JoAT also reported that UCL reconstructions between 2003 and 2014 increased 343%, with 56.6% in those aged 15 to 19 years.
With a loaded schedule, longer seasons, and players participating on multiple teams, it’s no surprise that injuries are more common. According to a PubMed study, pitchers experienced 34% higher injury incidence rates than fielders during the study period.
Injury prevention is more critical than ever to ensure that players can handle extended seasons and overlapping team schedules without breaking down their bodies.
To help keep players from getting injured, we outline five essential strategies for preventing baseball injuries. Since pitchers sustain the most injuries, we’ll focus most of our prevention strategies on them. However, the overarching principles behind the prevention strategies can apply to every position in baseball.
Limit Use of Pitchers’ Throwing Arms
Overuse leads to most injuries in baseball, and most of these injuries are preventable.
Short-term, acute overuse can come from throwing too many pitches in a game and throwing while fatigued. Pitch count limits are an excellent way to prevent this.
Long-term overuse comes from repeated stresses without adequate rest. To prevent long-term overuse injuries, it’s important to follow two guidelines:
- Don’t pitch more than 100 innings per year.
- Limit the season to 8 months of the year.
Sticking to pitch count limits, innings per year limits, and season length guidelines help prevent injuries from overuse.
Don’t Let Pitchers Throw When Fatigued
Fatigue leads to poor throwing mechanics. When throwing mechanics break down, there is an increased chance of injury. Whenever a pitcher shows signs of fatigue, pull them.
However, players often won’t admit when they’re tired, so you’ll need an objective way to determine fatigue. Use pitch counts, ball velocity, ball location, pitching mechanics, and overall strength to know if it’s time to switch out.
Work With a Qualified Coach
A good coach can teach proper throwing mechanics and warm-up routines and help prevent any injuries that would otherwise come from improper technique. If players throw 1000s of times per season, they must learn sound throwing mechanics from a qualified coach.
Strength and Conditioning
The entire body is needed to throw hard, not just the arm. If the legs or back are tired, or they aren’t being correctly engaged, some players might try to use their arm to make up for it. This can lead to injuries from overuse or acute stress on soft tissue in the shoulder and arm.
Every body part needs to be strong to stay healthy throughout a long season. The goal is for the body to fatigue evenly, if possible.
Strengthening and balancing the entire body will improve quality throwing mechanics and power. Conditioning the back, thighs, core, and other muscle groups will keep baseball players from suffering a breakdown in mechanics as they fatigue.
Get Adequate Rest
It’s closely related to item #1, but it’s worth mentioning again because of its importance for injury prevention.
Don’t pitch on consecutive days. Keep the season short enough to allow ligaments and soft tissue to heal completely. If your player is tired, have them stop throwing. If they’re in pain, they need rest and rehab. Don’t encourage players to power through the pain; it will only lead to injuries.
If athletes play a lot of baseball, some will get injured from time to time, no matter what precautions are taken. If you suffer an injury near Phoenix, AZ, it’s essential to seek help and rehab guidance from doctors, surgeons, and medical professionals specializing in sports medicine.
Prevention should always be a priority, but you should only trust qualified doctors and surgeons for your care if you’re injured. The OASIS Hospital sports medicine team offers the latest treatment options to speed up your recovery and get you back on the field. Reach out and find out how we can get you back in the game.