Batter Up! Baseball and Softball Injury Prevention

Baseball Pitcher

Posted on 6/12/2017 by Heather N. Wnorowski, P.T., DPT, OCS

 

Across the country, baseball and softball season is in full swing. Whether it’s at a backyard barbecue or an official game, athletes of all skill levels are taking part in America’s favorite pastime.

Over the past few years, a large emphasis has been on the youth athlete and overuse injuries in pitchers. We have learned to monitor pitch counts, plan structured rest and encourage multi-sport participation with athletes.

But what about outfielders, catchers and the weekend warriors who enjoy playing in their neighborhood league?

Common injuries aside from the shoulder and elbow exist in youth and adult baseball/softball athletes, such as back pain, knee pain and Achilles injury. Many overhead athletes have concurrent complaints of back pain or contralateral knee pain (knee pain opposite of their throwing arm). Why?

When you think about baseball and softball, a player is doing rotational movements that require the entire body. Unless they switch hit, these rotational patterns are always to the same side. What then happens is they may overdevelop certain muscular groups on one side in comparison to the other. In doing so, this can cause overuse injuries of these groups or we may injure or strain ourselves doing normal daily activities due to this imbalance.

The easiest way to avoid injury at practice or during a game is to develop a proper warm-up routine. An adequate warm-up usually involves a little bit of sweat, which can be hard to get in the dugout. Try performing some of these full body movements to warm-up quickly and efficiently:

Overhead squat
 Heather Squat

Overhead walking lunge
 Heather Overhead Lunge

Split squat with one foot on the dugout bench
 Heather Split Squat

Lunge with trunk and arm rotation
 Heather Lunge Rotation

Shoulder rotation with banded pull aparts
 Heather Band Rotation

PNF diagonal pattern with banded pull aparts
 Heather PNF Bands

Incorporating a low back and abdominal strengthening routine into your normal strengthening routine is also recommended. To be most efficient, you need a good transfer of force between the upper half and lower half during throwing or batting. Without a solid core, athletes with lose force and become less effective. Abdominal exercises that require rotation in both directions, isometric holds (planks, side planks), and lumbar extension strengthening should all be incorporated into your programming.

Heather Stretch 1 Heather Stretch 2

Having a good balance of strength (right and left sides comparable) and a solid warm up routine will help to prevent injury and enhance performance. Hopefully these tips prepare you for your season and keep you healthy on the field. Best of luck in your upcoming season!

By: Heather N. Wnorowski, P.T., DPT, OCS. Heather is a staff physical therapist at our NovaCare Rehabilitation center in Sewell, NJ. She earned a doctorate of physical therapy from Widener University and is dedicated to developing efficient avenues of treatment to influence superior patient outcomes.