Tips to help prevent baseball injuries

As youth baseball season gets into full swing, Tony Wanich, MD, Attending Surgeon, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Montefiore Medical Center offers tips for parents and coaches to help prevent injuries which could require surgery later in life. Dr. Wanich believes that with the proper precautions and appropriate preseason training and conditioning, the vast majority of baseball injuries, which are increasingly common among young athletes due to high demands and expectations, can be prevented.

Injuries most commonly involve the shoulder and elbow and are typically due to overuse. The best approach is prevention through appropriate conditioning, training and following safe guidelines for play.

Here are tips from Dr. Wanich to help prevent injury:

•Establish a consistent warm up routine prior to any athletic activity, include a stretching program, where each stretch is held for at least 30 seconds, involving not only the upper and lower extremities, but also the back and abdominal muscles which make up the body's core.

•Running is a key component in pre-activity warm-up and preseason conditioning, and is an important way for pitchers to develop endurance and stamina and for position players to develop speed and agility. Pitchers should focus more on long distance running for 30 minutes per training session, 2 times per weeks, while position players should focus on sprint sets and shuttle runs.

•Strength training is essential in baseball players and should involve the entire body, as the power in the throwing athlete is generated in the core and lower body. For throwers, special attention needs to be paid to the rotator cuff, biceps, triceps, forearm muscles, and the scapular stabilizers including the trapezius, latissiumus, and serratus anterior muscles. Once again, the core muscles of the abdomen and back are essential in power generation during the throwing motion but are often overlooked during training.

•The adage that practice makes perfect is not always the case in baseball, as it is important to avoid pitching on consecutive days. Pitchers should rotate playing different positions and avoid pitching for multiple teams. Little League Baseball has become a year round sport, but it is important to ensure players have an adequate amount of time to rest between leagues.

•Youth pitchers should focus on developing accuracy and control through good pitching mechanics. The use of radar guns and an overemphasis on pitch speed has led to numerous injuries as athletes over exert themselves and alter their throwing mechanics in an effort to gain velocity. There is some concern that certain pitches, particularly if thrown incorrectly, further contributes to the development of shoulder and elbow injuries. As such, pitchers should focus on mastering the fast ball before moving on to other types of pitches.

•Communication between players, parents and coaches is an easy way to identify problems before they become a more significant injury. Overuse injuries can quickly turn into season ending or even career ending problems. Persistent pain, which does not improve with rest, should be evaluated by a Sports Medicine specialist to rule out possible rotator cuff, labral, and ulnar collateral ligament tears.

Source:

 Montefiore Medical Center

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