Quick Tips to Stay Healthy in the 2021 Baseball Season

Brandon J. Erickson, M.D. February 18th, 2021

The 2021 baseball season is fast approaching and many players are anxious to ramp back up as quickly as possible. However, most athletes saw a disruption to their normal routine in 2020 because of the pandemic. As such, most baseball players, specifically pitchers, did not go through their normal in season or off-season routines. This could make these athletes susceptible to injury in 2021. This post will give a few quick tips to help minimize the risk of injury in 2021.

Pay attention to your body.

Your workload is often defined by a combination of innings pitched, pitches thrown, batters faced, days of rest in between outings, etc. While workload can vary from year to year, most athletes stay relatively consistent with some increase or decrease in workload each year. As 2020 caused most players to have a decreased workload, athletes must be cognizant of this when entering 2021. All of your workload metrics decreased in 2020. 

While it would be nice to simply revert back to your 2019 workload, this may not be possible as your body may not be able to tolerate that workload yet. It is important to listen to your body as your workload begins to increase, and understand the difference between mild soreness after a game or pain. 

Soreness is to be expected and is no cause for concern. Pain that prevents you from doing your normal activities, that wakes you up at night, or that lingers more than a couple of days can be cause for concern. Oftentimes, you know your body better than anyone, and it will tell you if things are not going well. Just remember to pay attention. 

Stretch

One of the easiest ways to decrease risk of shoulder and elbow injury is to properly stretch. This specifically applies to the throwing shoulder, trunk of the body, and hips. For the shoulder, external and internal rotation are extremely important, especially in pitchers. Similarly, internal rotation is paramount for the hips, especially in the landing leg for pitchers as it is necessary to rotate over this leg to generate a forceful pitch. Players who lose motion in any of these areas place themselves at risk of shoulder and elbow injury. Therefore, a daily stretching routine should be instituted for baseball players in an effort to decrease their risk of injury.

Start a strengthening program.

While stretching is very important, it’s also important to strengthen the muscles of your shoulder, shoulder blade, and your core. The shoulder blade functions as the foundation of the shoulder in a throwing athlete. When the shoulder blade is in a good position because the muscles originating from the shoulder blade are strong and firing, it can decrease the risk of shoulder injuries in throwing athletes. 
Similarly, a strong core can help take stress off of the upper body during the throwing cycle and therefore can help decrease injury risk. A band routine for scapular stabilization and a core workout several times per week is a helpful way to keep the athlete healthy.

Give yourself plenty of time to adapt to your throwing program.

One of the most common ways pitchers get injuries is because they try to rush back to pitching before their arm is ready. It takes several months for a pitcher’s arm to be ready to throw competitively. This is one of the reasons spring training in professional baseball is so long, and is why pitchers and catchers report first. 

It’s important to take the necessary amount of time to complete a throwing progression before trying to throw in a game. Whether this takes 6 weeks or 10 weeks, the important thing is that the shoulder and elbow are ready to see the stress placed on them during a game. Make sure to complete each stage of the throwing progression without skipping steps, or rushing through different checkpoints.

Dr. Erickson is a Sports Medicine Surgeon and an assistant team physician for the Philadelphia Phillies. He has a special interest in shoulder, elbow and knee injuries to athletes and non-athletes alike. He sees patients in Manhattan and Westchester County, NY. For more information or to make an appointment, please click here or call 888-636-7840.
 
 

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