Shoulder and elbow injuries in professional baseball has been a hot topic since the first Tommy John Surgery over 45 years ago. However, were you aware that shoulder and elbow injuries are not just a professional baseball problem, but the rate of these injuries has skyrocketed in youth baseball?
For many of the 5 million youth who participate in baseball each year, pain is a part of play. According to one study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, 40 percent of youth baseball players admitted to having pain with throwing or pain holding them back from performing at the best of their ability.
Are Baseball Injuries Preventable?
Elbow and shoulder injuries in baseball can be acute or sudden in onset, however more frequently these injuries are chronic and occur over time. Although no injury is 100% preventable; proper preparation, practice and communication with your coach and athletic trainer can reduce the risk of injury.
What Causes Arm Injuries In Baseball Players?
Top factors that cause arm injury in youth baseball are pitching with fatigue and overuse, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
- Pitching with fatigue is pitching when the arm feels tired or weak.
- Overuse injuries occur when a player throws excessively by pitching in more months, games, innings and showcase events a year.
How Can I Reduce The Risk of A Baseball Injury?
Players can reduce the risk of an arm or shoulder injury in baseball by taking these steps:
- Have open and honest communication regarding arm fatigue or pain with your coach and athletic trainer.
- Follow Pitch Smart USA pitch count guidelines.
- Don't pitch multiple times on the same day.
- Play on only one baseball team at a time.
- Take at least three months off from pitching a year, with two months being consecutive.
- After an extended break from pitching, gradually increase volume of throwing.
- Follow safe pitching guidelines while at showcase events.
- Use caution when returning to pitching after injury to other areas of the body.
What Other Steps Can Help Baseball Players Stay Healthy?
Baseball players can plan for a healthier season by following these steps during the off season and during play:
During Baseball Season
- Utilize a full-body functional warm-up focusing on; mobility, strength and increasing body temperature.
- For the throwing portion of a warm-up gradually increase distance and speed of throws.
- Perform a shoulder and elbow injury prevention program as part of your warmup twice a week as well as during the offseason.
- Work with an athletic development coach to increase; strength, power and conditioning.
- Work with an experienced coach to develop proper pitching mechanics.
- Speak with a certified athletic trainer or other sports medicine professional regarding any arm pain or further injury prevention strategies.
- Use proper gear, including helmets with face shields, whenever playing, to reduce the risk of concussions and other head and face injuries. More than 10 percent of baseball injuries in high school occur to the head.
By Zach Creighton
Lead Athletic Trainer, Franciscan Health Sports Medicine Crown Point