As warmer weather becomes more frequent, it’s time for fans everywhere to rejoice: baseball season is here. And with athletes preparing for a new year of playing ball, and our Rothman doctors underway for another year with the Phillies, we wanted to provide you with some tips on injury prevention and management.
Let’s jump right in:
The Importance of Conditioning
With millions of athletes playing baseball (many of them children and young adults) in the upcoming season, injuries are to be expected – as is the case with any sport. However, due to the lack of proper conditioning, more young athletes than ever are suffering significant, long-lasting injuries, many of which can be avoided.
Alarming statistics around overuse injuries and proper recovery are appearing everywhere. According to Huffpost, injuries in softball and baseball players have become 500 percent more frequent in the last few years. Particularly, 45 percent of young baseball players in 8th and 9th grade will experience arm pain of some sort throughout the season – a sign of early wear and tear from the unnatural motion of throwing a baseball. Over time, this leaves players more likely to deal with overuse-related injuries to their shoulder and elbow.
With so many early problems appearing for baseball players everywhere, we want to break down some strong conditioning methods to consider using as you prepare for the new season.
Preseason and Pre-Game Conditioning for Baseball
Getting ready for the baseball season is all about preparing yourself for the long, strenuous season and whatever the game may throw at you. We break it down into two categories: stretching and strengthening.
Stretching – One of the most important conditioning exercises you can do. When done consistently, stretching helps prevent soft tissue injuries over time. It can even improve your overall performance as a player by allowing you to have a full range of motion in your muscles and ligaments. Some of the best stretches you can do to provide more flexibility to your game include:
- Posterior Shoulder Stretch (Sleeper stretch)
- Anterior Shoulder Stretch (Reverse sleeper stretch)
- Forearm Stretch
- Triceps Stretch
- Back Rotation Stretch
- Pectoral Stretch
Each of these stretches targets different soft tissue segments in the body to help ensure that a swift motion or jerk doesn’t cause an unnecessary tear in a ligament or tendon, or that a tight capsule doesn’t cause the shoulder to move in a funny way. More specifically, they all target the shoulder, elbow, and core of your body – three fundamentally important areas for any baseball player to consider strengthening.
Strengthening – Just as important for conditioning as proper stretches, consistently doing strengthening exercises in the 8 to 12 weeks leading up to a season are key in making sure your body is ready when the time comes to play.
Here are some great strengthening exercises to try as you get prepared for the upcoming season, with a few listed below:
- Band External Rotations – strengthens the rotator cuff
- Band Internal Rotations – strengthens the rotator cuff
- Blackburns – helps with batting/throwing
- Prone Scarecrows – helps with throwing/pitching
- Shoulder Alphabet – helps stabilize the shoulder
- Forearm training (6-way) – strengthens the elbow and wrist
- Scapular stabilization exercises - works on activating/strengthening the many muscles of the shoulder blade
By working out these different parts of the upper body, a player is able to decrease the risk of overuse that comes with playing baseball. Having stronger ligaments, tendons, and muscles is also a great first step for pitchers looking to increase their range and throwing endurance during a game.
Common Shoulder Injuries and Elbow Problems
As much as we work to avoid injuries, they are undoubtedly a part of any high-speed sport that we play. Even professional athletes find themselves falling victim to a plethora of injuries, regardless of how much stretching and strength conditioning they do to prevent it.
At Rothman, our orthopedic specialists see all sorts of injuries from players throughout the season. And though some are more common than others, all are part of playing the game.
Here’s some of the most common problems we see come through our office doors, from minor sprains to season-ending injuries:
Sprained Wrist – Often caused by a face-first slide or diving attempt to catch the ball, a sprained wrist is common among all sports, but particularly so in baseball. Depending on the severity, it can take anywhere from a week up to a few months to entirely heal.
Wrist Tendonitis – In most cases, wrist tendonitis is caused by constant overuse of the wrist while throwing or batting. It usually clears up within a few weeks through a combination of ice, rest, and splinting, but can also take longer in advanced forms – anywhere up to 6 months or longer.
Elbow Tendonitis (known as Pitchers Elbow) – Almost always a result of wear and overuse, pitchers elbow is one of the leading issues in baseball players. A mild form of this injury can take just a few weeks to heal, but for ligaments with significant damage, it can take anywhere from 2-3 months to make a full recovery.
Torn Labrum – Through both a windup and release, a torn labrum is often caused by pitching or throwing the ball. Cartilage begins to break down and wear away, which leads to instability in the joint and ultimately leads to a tear. Recovery takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months, including the physical therapy required to heal.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injury – Most well-known for being associated with Tommy John Surgery, a UCL injury is one that often requires both surgical intervention and a very long recovery time. It normally takes a year for a player to recover, but can also take up to 2 years before an athlete is back in their original form.
Getting The Right Orthopedic Care After An Injury
Rothman Orthopaedics is here to help you with your baseball injuries so you can get back on the diamond. Our experienced physicians are world-class, serving as the Philadelphia Phillies team doctors and orthopedists.
If you’re in need of help, our doctors will work to provide a treatment method that’s best for you and get you back to performing the way you should. Contact us now for an appointment.