Youth sports have become progressively more competitive. What was once a weekly game of baseball or softball is now up to multiple games a week, or even multiple games per day. And with increased play time comes the potential for overuse injuries.
Due to the frequency of throwing, elbow and shoulder injuries are the two most common overuse injuries sustained by softball and baseball players. It’s a common misconception for softball/baseball players to think that the more they throw the stronger they will become. In reality, the opposite is true. Additionally, sprains and strains are typical.
Brian Hagan, DPT, program administrator at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, discusses some of the most common injuries:
- Tennis elbow – Characterized by inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the forearm, tennis elbow is caused by repetitive motions, such as throwing. Symptoms may include burning pain on the outside of the elbow and tenderness to the touch.
- Rotator cuff injury – A common injury for pitchers, a torn rotator cuff (a network of four muscles) can be the result of the wearing down of the tendons over time. Symptoms may include persistent pain, popping, or clicking when moving the shoulder, and limited range of motion.
- Ankle sprain – Playing the field, sliding into bases, and being constantly on the move makes ankle sprains another common injury for baseball players. A sprain occurs when there is stress or a tear to the ankle ligaments. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, bruising, and tenderness to the touch.
In addition to overuse and overtraining, these injuries can also result from:
- Poor throwing mechanics
- Decreased muscle strength (shoulder, wrist, hip, core, legs)
- Not enough rest periods
To help avoid overuse injuries, Brian recommends athletes:
- Warm up properly before playing
- Focus on strength training and conditioning
- Limit the number of teams you play on per season
If an overuse injury does occur, the best course of treatment is to immediately rest, apply ice, do gentle stretches, and take ibuprofen if needed. If the pain persists longer than 48 hours, seek medical attention.
To learn more about UPMC Sports Medicine, or to schedule an appointment, visit the UPMC Sports Medicine website, or call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678).