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Getting Ready for Baseball & Softball

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It won't be long before the crack of a bat will mark the start of baseball and softball season.

From the littlest T-ball players to those on adult community leagues, playing baseball or softball is a sport for all ages.

But players can also be more prone to injury than many people realize.

What you need to know

With baseball and softball, we generally see two types of injuries: acute and overuse injuries,” says Phil Vande Pol, a physical therapist with EvergreenHealth Rehabilitation Care.

There are ways, though, to prevent both by understanding the causes of injury and how to prevent them.

Acute baseball/softball injuries

Sliding safe into home base is something every player takes pride in — until they end up with a sprained, strained or broken ankle.

“Most of the acute baseball/softball injuries we see involve the lower extremity of the body, such as the ankles, knees or hamstrings,” Phil explains. “They are often the result of ‘fluke’ things like sliding into base, running into a fence or colliding with another player.”

Overuse baseball injuries

While acute baseball/softball injuries are not uncommon, it’s more likely that an injury will occur from overuse.

And, not surprisingly, most such injuries affect the arm, specifically the shoulder and elbow.

“The most common overuse injuries are shoulder tendinitis and elbow strain,” Phil says. “They don’t hurt right away but tend to increase in pain as the season goes on.”

These injuries can result when players are throwing and pitching with little or no breaks in between or when they’ve not played in several months and jump back in full force without proper conditioning and training.

Limiting pitch counts and rotating positions are helpful in protecting against overuse injuries.

How to prevent baseball injuries

While this tip may seem obvious, one of the best ways to prevent injuries, particularly the acute kind, is to be aware of your surroundings.

“Holes in the playing field can twist an ankle pretty quickly and running into a fence can damage a knee. Just being aware of what’s around you can prevent a lot of mishap,” Phil says.

Additionally, players of all ages should always warm up before practice or a game.

“Ideally, a proper warm-up should be about 10 minutes in length and include the entire body,” Phil says. “Some people neglect the body as a whole and just do a couple of shoulder stretches before they start throwing. This is not enough and will leave your shoulder and arm more susceptible to overuse injuries.”

A proper baseball/softball warm-up

A proper warm-up starts with the lower extremity to get the entire body loose and your blood flowing. Suggested activities, and videos to show you how, include:

The above exercises should be 45-60 seconds each.

After that, Phil says you can focus on the specifics: the shoulders, arms, and elbow.

Suggested activities, plus videos, include:

The above exercises should be 45-60 seconds each.

After both the lower and the upper extremities have been warmed up, then players can move on to throwing.

No pain, no gain—NOT

While many athletes think it’s important to play through pain, that decision can actually lead to more serious problems, depending on the injury.

“If you have continuous pain when throwing the ball or running, you should be checked out. Playing with pain can directly lead to injury or facilitate muscle imbalances,” Phil says. “These imbalances, can increase the risk of further injury when the player starts playing again.” 

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