It’s that time of year again, the start of baseball and softball season. With Opening day at Fenway in the books, have you wondered what players go through to prepare for their first game? Whether it’s a player from the Red Sox or a student athlete in your life, players need guidance to ensure a safe and healthy season.
We asked NEBH athletic trainers about the type of injuries that most commonly occur and how players can prepare and stay healthy during the season:
Baseball and softball requires athletes to go from moderate periods of little to no movement, to making quick lateral movements while reaching and diving for the ball. These sudden changes in direction can lead to muscle strains in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back if the player has not properly trained during the winter off season. A strength and conditioning program that targets the rotor cuff complex, thoracic spine, and lower body will prepare ball players for the demands of their sport.
One of the most common injuries for ball players is shoulder and elbow pain. We typically see two types of players: those who have not thrown a baseball or softball since the end of last season, and the year round ball player. For those who have taken the last year off, jumping right into throwing and pitching at a high volume can lead to injury because the arm has done too much too soon. Spring training should include a structured throwing program that systematically increases the number of throws, throwing distance, and velocity to ensure safely building up of arm strength.
For the year round ball player, who typically plays on multiple teams throughout the year, not enough rest can lead to overuse injuries in the throwing shoulder and elbow. These athletes need a period of time to rest their arms and then work on restoring shoulder strength and range of motion. We recommend that these athletes play another sport for at least one season during the year. This will not only allow their arms to rest and recover and reduce risk of injury, but also make them better all-around athletes.
Another common injury in both baseball and softball is an ankle sprain from sliding into a base or from fielding a ball. Many ankle injuries can be prevented by practicing proper base running and sliding techniques during practice.
Another component to consider is playing conditions. For example, spring weather in New England is very variable and can change quickly, going from a perfect spring day to a snow squall or rain storm. It’s important to be prepared for all conditions by having warm weather clothes with your gear, especially for night games and practices. Consider dressing in layers. Layers of light, loose, and water and wind resistant clothing are ideal.
With proper preparation and training, you can be on your way to a successful season. Don’t forget, if you have any type of persistent pain, it’s important to see an orthopedic specialist.