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Devin Morrissey
April 18, 2019

How Baseball Players Can Better Protect Themselves From Injury

action-athletes-ball-159741Some may think of baseball as a sport with minimal injury because of the minimal contact between players, unlike sports like football or hockey. Baseball players do have less contact with each other, and they are required to wear protective gear and follow safety guidelines. However, baseball players are still prone to certain types of injuries.

Examining some common baseball-related injuries and their treatments can give players insight into how to better protect themselves while playing. Not only should they always wear protective gear, they should also be cognizant of the common injuries caused by overuse. They should also be consistent about warming up and stretching before playing. Finally, players and coaches should be responsible about avoiding unnecessary contact.

Common Baseball-Related Injuries

Whether a player is pitching, catching, throwing, batting, or running, there are some common baseball-related injuries to look out for. In truth, pitching is an extremely violent motion for the arm that can cause some serious injuries for seasoned players. Balls that are pitched and hit are commonly travelling over 100 miles per hour. This activity can create injuries in players that can be detrimental to a player’s health. 

  •  Shoulder: Shoulder tendonitis or rotator cuff tears are common baseball-related injuries related to throwing a baseball.
  •  Elbow: Elbow injuries are common for pitchers in baseball. A “Tommy John injury” is a term often used to describe common elbow injuries resulting from frequent pitching.
  •  Knee: ACL or MCL tears are common knee injuries resulting from a player twisting, pivoting, stopping suddenly, or experiencing impact.
  • Muscle: Muscle strains or sprains are common in the legs, arms, and back.
  • Back: Hitting and throwing can cause disc injuries, muscle strains, and stress fractures in the back.
  • Cuts, Contusions, and Concussions: Cuts and bruises can happen in catching, sliding, or contact during the game. Contact between players or an errant ball can also cause concussions while playing.
  • Dental: Because it’s not a contact sport, this gets overlooked. However, those balls fly at high speeds and can certainly mess up your mouth without proper protection.

Wearing the Right Gear

Safety gear is created to help curb serious injuries on the field, so wearing the right gear is essential. Batting helmets are important in protecting batters from errant pitches. Catcher’s gear is also important when standing behind the plate near fast balls and the swing of a bat, not to mention any contact at the plate. There are also face shields available for pitchers and infielders. The injury a pitcher can sustain from a line drive can be extensive. Mouth guards, padded sliding pants, batting gloves, protective cups, knee savers, and elbow or shin guards are also examples of protective gear a player may consider wearing to help protect themselves from injury. 

Avoiding Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries are extremely common in baseball. Over time, as the sport has become more competitive and batters have gotten better, pitchers are pressured to throw faster and better. One of the ways to prevent elbow injuries which can require Tommy John surgery is to avoid overuse. Pitchers should be rotated out, rest during the off-season, avoid playing for multiple teams, and work on proper pitching mechanics to prevent injury. Coaches and players both need to be responsible about overuse injuries, especially in younger players. Rest and avoiding overuse is important in many areas of the sport, but pitchers are the most prone to overuse injuries.

Warm-Ups and Stretching

It’s always best to warm up the car before driving it. The same principle applies to the body when playing a sport. It’s important for players to get muscles pliable and moving before throwing knuckleballs, sprinting to the base, jumping for a catch, or rotating through a swing. Warming up is one of the easiest ways to avoid an injury in most any sport. Some light cardio, throwing drills, stretches, sprints, or batting practice can help the body prepare for the game and increase blood flow. It may seem like warming up the arm may not be helpful in terms of overuse, but it’s a balance that’s important to master. 

Avoiding Unnecessary Contact

Contact sports are known for the scary reality of concussions. Though baseball doesn’t have as much contact as some other sports, the threat is still very real. Sliding, getting hit with the ball, getting hit with the bat, and home plate collisions can all cause concussions. Though many of these instances result on accident, there are still ways to avoid the contact that can result in a concussion. Preventing concussions in sports has become a high priority. For this reason many regulations are changing in order to protect players from concussions, but it also calls for responsible choices by players and coaches.

For baseball players, this means:

  •  Wearing a helmet when batting
  • Not sliding head first
  • Avoiding home plate collisions
  • Wearing the proper catching gear
  • Staying alert for line drives
  • Practicing caution in the outfield as to not hit a fence, wall, or backstop

Physical contact shouldn’t be considered a strategy in baseball — in fact, it’s largely prohibited. This is important in a sport in which there isn’t as much protective gear worn. Though catchers wear the most gear, they are most prone to concussions in baseball. This has resulted in more regulations and better gear, but it’s still important to play responsibly and avoid unnecessary contact.

Baseball may not be a contact sport, but it’s an extremely physical sport that puts a lot of strain on the body. Some of the most common injuries are a result of quick and violent motions involved with the swing of the arm or the twist of the body. Not only is it important to know about the most common injuries in baseball, it’s also important for players to protect themselves from them. Wearing the right gear, avoiding overuse, warming up, and avoiding contact are the best ways to avoid injuries in baseball. It’s up to players, coaches, and the parents of younger players to be aware of these risks and how to avoid them.

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