Unfortunately for those of us who love to participate in this sport, baseball injuries are by no means uncommon. They range from mild soft tissue injuries to some of the most debilitating ones that can sideline a player for months. Shoulder injuries are a particular problem as well as baseball elbow injuries. Oblique injuries in baseball are also an important consideration for any athlete in the sport who is looking to stay healthy. Contrary to popular belief in some quarters, these injuries are not necessarily restricted to major league baseball.
Baseball injuries are primarily the result of three factors – the need for players to keep up daily training and competition during the season, which increases the risk of repetitive stress injuries, poor techniques when it comes to activities like fielding or hitting and the risk of accidents such as inter player collisions or being hit by the ball itself.
Common Baseball Injuries
Some of the more common baseball injuries include:
Shoulder injuries in general and torn labrums in particular. The labrum is the ring of cartilage surrounding the shallow socket of the shoulder joint. It serves to keep the shoulder bones in place and generally stabilize the joint. The pitching and throwing movements that are so common in baseball place significant stress on the labrum and cause it to tear and fray over time. Once this starts to happen, the baseball player will experience shoulder swelling and pain as well as general joint weakness and instability.
Baseball is also a significant cause of rotator cuff injuries. These too are a result of the constant stress on the shoulder socket due to the required pitching and throwing activity. These are serious injuries (more serious than a torn labrum) and can easily put the player on the bench for the remainder of a season. If not appropriately treated, the effects of a torn rotator cuff may even turn out to be permanent.
The stress on the shoulder due to throwing and pitching can also cause chronic shoulder instability.
Baseball is also particularly punishing on the arm, with the elbow joint in particular being subject to many unusual stresses. The ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow plays a key role in stabilizing the joint. As such, the huge number of pitches required of a baseball pitcher during a single season places unusual stresses on the elbow and can result in significant elbow pain. The technical name for the resulting condition is medial epicondylitis. Serious elbow injuries of this type may require reconstructive surgery using ligaments harvested from elsewhere in the body. This procedure is known colloquially as Tommy John surgery.
Another part of the arm that cannot be neglected in any discussion of baseball injuries is the wrist. Collisions between players can happen from time to time and the wrist is an extremely vulnerable part of the body when this happens, as players may use the hand to reduce the force of the impact. For the same reason, many wrist injuries are also caused by falling and using the outstretched arm to reduce the force of the impact with the ground. Attempting to improperly catch to a thrown or hit ball can also cause wrist injuries in baseball.
Moving down the body to the core area, oblique injuries can also be a significant risk in baseball. This is an overuse injury that affects the abdominal muscles. There are actually two oblique muscles – the internal and external – with the former situated just under the latter. The oblique muscles play a key role in hitting or throwing actions, which is why they tend to be frequently encountered baseball injuries. Like many other types of muscle strain, an oblique strain can range from a mild injury correctable with a few days of rest to a ruptured muscle that may require surgical intervention.
The lower body injuries typically suffered by baseball players include the following:
The knee is particularly vulnerable to injury among baseball players. Baseball injuries to the knee may be of either a traumatic or overuse nature. They include meniscus tears as well as tearing or rupturing of any of the 4 ligaments of the knee (ACL, LCL, MCL and PCL). If these ligaments are damaged, the player will start to feel as though his/her knee is “giving way” and cannot support the full body weight. Pain, inflammation and swelling may also be experienced as well as reduced range of motion of the joint.
Last but not least, as with any sport requiring lots of running, ankle injuries form a significant portion of the injuries experienced by baseball players. Ankle sprains are not uncommon. Fortunately, many of the ankle injuries can be treated conservatively and will respond well to a few weeks of months of R.I.C.E. treatment.
Treatment & Prevention of Baseball Injuries
Like most types of injuries, baseball injuries can be treated either conservatively (using non invasive measures) or by surgical techniques. Surgery, because of the greater risk of unexpected outcomes, is usually reserved for more serious injury cases.
Whether a conservative or surgical treatment treatment approach is followed, the baseball player will likely benefit from physical therapy during the recovery phase. This therapy will help him or her recover more fully and completely from the injury. He or she will then be better equipped to return to action and perform at his or her previous level.
The treatment of many baseball injuries relies on use of the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Icing, Compression & Elevation). The rest portion of the treatment allows the body’s natural healing processes to take effect. Icing helps to reduce pain and inflammation and compression promotes blood flow through the injured area. Elevation of the injured area above heart level also helps promote blood flow back to the heart and its replacement by nutrient rich fresh blood.
Athletic tape is also often used to provide support to injured soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) and joints in general. For the “weekend warrior” baseball player who may not have access to an athletic therapist, an orthopedic brace will provide an easy to implement way to support injured joints and tissues and allow them to heal.
Another way to reduce the pain of the injury while treatment proceeds is to use a topical analgesic such as BioFreeze. Non steroidal anti inflammatory medications like Advil can also be easily obtained over the counter and may also prove effective.
Physical therapy is often a vital component of treating baseball injuries. It helps the player return to full activity more quickly and with less risk of re-injury. Physical therapy may be a component of either conservative treatment such as wearing strapping tape or invasive treatments like surgery.
More Invasive Treatments
Other, more invasive treatment approaches for baseball injuries include shockwave treatment and surgery. However, these treatment approaches tend to be reserved for more serious injuries that cannot be treated conservatively.
Using Athletic Tape To Treat A Baseball Injury
Athletic tape represents a low profile way to provide stability and support to weak or injured ankles and knees. Taping your ankles will provide them with the support they need. At the same time, the tape will be low profile enough to fit comfortably inside your footwear.
Baseball players frequently have to initiate movements like running or sprinting with explosive initiations and possible sharp changes in direction. They are also frequently jumping, sliding, diving or stretching for the ball. These movements can send rotational movements through the lower body towards the feet and ankles. The result is a high risk of ankle sprains that you can reduce by strapping your feet and ankles with an adhesive tape.
Ankle taping also increases proprioception, which is the instinctive ability to sense where the ankle is at any moment. This allows the body to sense and instinctively avoid ankle positions that are unnatural and that may cause injury. So enhancing proprioception by wearing athletic tape during a baseball game serves to reduce the risk of injury.
If you do suffer an ankle sprain or other injury, you can wear adhesive tape after returning to play in order to reinforce the ankle until the healing process is complete.
Another body part that is a good candidate for taping is the knee. Like the ankle, it is highly contoured and will require an adhesive tape to conform closely to its surface. Additionally, baseball batters will frequently stop suddenly when arriving at a base with the knee in a flexed position. For batters with weak or previously injured knees, this can present a risk of re-injury. Wearing athletic tape gives batters with vulnerable knees additional reinforcement and stability for their knees. That in turn reduces the risk of injury (or of re-injury if the knee has already suffered an injury).
For additional information on taping joints, please read this post.
Athletic Tape Suggestions
Elastic Adhesive Tape
Non Elastic Adhesive Tape
Using Kinesiology Tape To Treat Baseball Injuries
Kinesiology tape will help to relieve sore and aching back and knee muscles at the end of a long game or practice/training session. Pitchers will also often experience sore and aching shoulder muscles and, in some cases, may suffer torn or damaged rotator cuffs as a result of repeated performing of the pitching action over a prolonged period. Batters may also experience sore back and torso muscles after a long period of striking practice. They can experience knee ligament sprains after repeated planting of the knee in a flexed position after arriving at a base. Using kinesiology tape for baseball injuries like these will help to lift the skin over the sore muscles and tissues and allow fresh blood and lymphatic fluids into the area for faster healing and recovery.
Another key advantage of using kinesiology tape for baseball injuries lies in the fact that it will not interfere with the player’s movement in any way. Instead, kinesiology tape actually relies on the natural movements of the joints, muscles, etc. to carry out its healing function.
Compared to using an orthopedic brace for injury rehabilitation, kinesiology tape is much lower profile. Players can easily wear it under clothes or inside footwear without hampering movement.
Wearing kinesiology tape for baseball related injuries has become increasingly popular in recent years for the reasons listed above. As a baseball player who aims to spend as much time as possible practising or playing, you owe it to yourself to try this approach to injury rehabilitation.
Unlike taking oral medications like Tylenol, using kinesiology tape for pain reduction will not produce any side effects. The tape is hypoallergenic, so players won’t have to worry about allergic reactions to it. Additionally, if you are wearing kinesiology tape on a part of your body that is publicly visible, e.g. the elbow, please be aware that you can easily buy it in a large variety of colors, each of which is therapeutically identical. When wearing kinesiology tape for a baseball game, you can easily match the color of the tape to that of your team uniform. For example, you can purchase Mueller Sports Medicine Kinesiology Tape in any of over a dozen colours.
For more information on how kinesiology tape works, read this post.
How Ankle Braces Can Be Useful In Treating Baseball Injuries
Ankle injuries for baseball players are an all too frequent occurrence. This is primarily the result of the large amount of running that baseball players have to do. Batters have to sprint at top speed between bases and then stop “on a dime” at the next base. Outfielders have to sprint after hits in order to get the ball back to the mound as quickly as possible. Ankle sprains and instability are the most commonly observed ankle injuries in the sport. When they occur, the best course of treatment is usually to allow the ankle to rest so that the injured ligaments can heal themselves in a natural fashion. Wearing ankle braces for baseball injuries helps to support and stabilize the joint and promotes healing.
Baseball players who are not suffering an ankle injury may nevertheless decide to wear ankle braces for baseball games or training sessions. The idea is to proactively strengthen the ankle against the stresses it will experience during the game. This will reduce the risk of incurring an injury in the first place. The idea is identical to the reason why many players may decide to tape their ankles before a game.
What To Look For In An Ankle Support
The ideal ankle brace for a baseball player will be a low profile support that he or she can wear inside his or her shoes with no loss of mobility of running speed. Light supports are also preferred for much the same reason.
Some ankle braces include a feature that increases friction against the skin in the presence of perspiration or other moisture. The result is a brace that remains more precisely in the correct position and provides superior therapeutic performance as a result. The BioSkin Trilok below is an example of such an ankle brace.
For an explanation of some of the other benefits of wearing an ankle brace while playing baseball, read this post.
Some Ankle Braces To Consider
Using A Shoulder Support To Treat A Baseball Related Injury
Shoulder problems are among the most prevalent injuries that baseball players will encounter in the sport. Baseball pitchers are especially prone to this condition as a result of the repetitive pitching action and the consequent wear and tear on the shoulder joint. When recovering from a torn rotator cuff or other shoulder problem, it may be advisable for players suffering affected by these problems to wear shoulder supports for baseball injuries . Such supports will help take the strain off your painful shoulder. This will promote recovery and increase the chances of full recovery without re-injuring your shoulder. Other shoulder injuries that can sometimes befall baseball players include shoulder dislocation, a separated shoulder and shoulder bursitis. Your chances of recovery from all of these problems will be enhanced by the use of shoulder supports.
Importance Of Compression & Wearing Comfort
In addition to the easing of stress on your shoulder, wearing shoulder braces for baseball injuries that offer medical grade compression will be of benefit. These shoulder supports will enhance blood flow through the injured area. Compression will also help with proprioception which will itself reduce the chances of re-injury. There is evidence that individuals with shoulder dislocations may suffer from decreased proprioception. This makes compression all the more important if you happen to suffer from that particular injury.
Other important features to look for in shoulder supports for baseball injuries are lightness and breathability. These features make the brace easy to wear over prolonged periods. As such, players’ recovery chances will be greater. Try also to choose a shoulder brace that includes straps or other features that make it adjustable. These supports will make it easy to adjust the brace to your particular needs, shoulder size, etc. This in turn makes for optimal comfort and a better therapeutic outcome.
If you are not familiar with shoulder braces and how they can help you, this post may be useful. Be sure to combine the use of shoulder supports for baseball injuries with plenty of rest & ice before taking up pitching again. If your shoulder injury appears to be a chronic recurrent problem, this post may be helpful.
Suggested Shoulder Braces
Using Calf/Thigh/Shin Supports To Treat Baseball Injuries
Baseball batters are required to frequently make sharp sprints from one base to the next and players can also do plenty of sprinting in the outfield. Sprinting can also cause acute injuries to the shins in much the same way as it can with other running intensive sports. Shin splints are a common result of intensive running and baseball players can fall prey to this condition also. The standard cure for shin splints is rest. However, a player can augment this by the use of shin supports. Wearing shin supports for baseball related injuries like shin splints will help players recover more rapidly from their injuries and get back in the game sooner.
As with all types of orthopedic supports, the best shin supports for baseball players are light and low profile. They are easy to wear under clothing and so will provide continuous pain relief. They will supply compression to the injured area and promote the healing process. Probably the best example of this is the Bio Skin Compression Shin Splint.
The sharp sprinting and stopping that baseball batters in particular have to do can also sometimes result in thigh or calf strains. Recovery from these injuries again requires rest. However, the player can promote the healing process by wearing a calf or thigh support to stabilize the injured structures. As with baseball shin supports, doing so will reduce the risk of re-injury during the healing process. Unlike baseball shin supports, however, the typical calf or thigh support used in baseball will be a sleeve that covers the injured area. It will provide therapeutic compression for pain relief and faster recovery.
Other Injury Avoidance Strategies
To reduce the risk of injury in the first place, baseball players may emphasize off season training to remain in top condition. Warming up before games, as well as cooling down after them, will also help to reduce the incidence of calf, thigh or shin injuries. If successful, these strategies may actually make it unnecessary to ever have to wear calf, thigh or shin supports for baseball related injuries.
Calf/Shin/Thigh Supports To Consider
How A Back Brace Can Be Useful In Treating A Baseball Injury
For a baseball batter, swinging the bat repeatedly at high speed exerts severe twisting forces on the back. This can in turn result in muscle spasms and strains. In addition to these injuries, baseball batters can develop a condition known as spondylolithesis. This is characterized by the displacement of individual vertebrae relative to adjacent ones. Back braces for baseball players need to be able to counter this condition.
In addition to spondylolithesis, back braces for baseball players need to be able to combat low back pain, another frequent complaint among baseball enthusiasts. This pain may itself be a result of an underlying condition like intervertebral disc degeneration. If so, the underlying condition needs also to be addressed as part of the treatment strategy. Left untreated, it can develop into spondylolithesis.
An ideal baseball back brace will be designed to treat the conditions mentioned above. However, the ideal brace should also be sufficiently low profile that the player can wear it under the uniform. If so, it will provide support to the back during the game or training session. At the same time, it will not restrict the player’s mobility or range of motion. Players who have previously suffered from back strains, sprains or other similar injuries will be less likely to experience another such injury.
The broader benefits of using back braces for athletic activity are explored here.
Other Injury Avoidance Strategies
In addition to wearing one of these back braces for baseball games, players should follow a routine for stretching and warming up prior to games. The objective will be to lengthen the back muscles, ligaments and tendons and make them more supple. In that condition, they are less likely to be damaged if subjected to sudden stresses or forces. Examples of effective back warm-up exercises may include seated torso twists, side bends and forward bends.
For more information on these and other warm ups or stretches, please read our post on cricket warm-up exercises.
Braces To Consider For Treatment Of A Baseball Related Back Injury
The Value Of A Knee Brace In Treating A Baseball Related Knee Injury
Knee injuries for baseball players tend to result primarily from the extensive running involved in the sport. For example, players can experience impacts against the joint or twists that occur while rounding the bases at high speed. These can tear the meniscus in the knee and be quite painful. Knee braces for baseball injuries such as a torn meniscus can provide support to your knee and promote recovery.
Other types of knee injuries can be the result of sudden changes of speed and/or direction while running. A batter stopping abruptly upon arriving at a base or an outfielder taking off after the ball from a stationary position are both examples of situations that can give rise to these injuries. The injuries would include strains or tears in the ligaments that hold the upper part of the leg to the lower leg. Recovery from these types of injuries requires resting the damaged ligaments. Wearing knee braces for baseball knee injuries will help the healing process move along more quickly.
Low profile knee braces for baseball players offer the advantage of being wearable under regular or baseball clothing. They will also pose less interference to the player’s movements and performance. Light braces like the Bio Skin Hinged Knee Skin – Front Closure are also preferable for similar reasons. Players can more easily use them during games or training sessions. For answers to other questions that you may have as you start wearing your knee brace, please read this post.
Rehabilitative Program For Injured Knees
In addition to using knee braces for baseball injuries, players will benefit from following a rehabilitation program for the knee. It will gradually strengthen the knee and prepare it for a return to regular use. Players should follow this program under the close supervision of a physiotherapist or sports medicine specialist. These exercises may include straight leg raises, toe raises, short arc knee extensions, resistive knee extensions, hamstring strengthening exercises and hip flexion exercises. Used in conjunction with knee braces for baseball activity, these exercises will help baseball players return to full health as quickly as possible.
Knee Supports To Consider
How A Performance Sleeve Can Help Enhance Baseball Performance As Well As Treat Injuries
A performance sleeve for your arm and elbow will improve your performance of throwing actions such as pitching a baseball or throwing it from the outfield. For baseball fielders and pitchers, the ability to throw and pitch the ball efficiently and accurately is a major determinant of their performance. In fact, given the centrality of the pitcher’s performance to the team’s results, one can argue that the pitcher’s ability to pitch the ball consistently and efficiently is a major factor in the result of the game. Players should therefore give careful consideration to wearing performance sleeves for baseball games.
Performance sleeves will also improve proprioception along the arm and reduce the risk of injury. Proprioception is the ability of the limb to instinctively sense its position or orientation and the degree to which this poses risk of harm. By enhancing proprioception, therefore, the use of performance sleeves for baseball play is likely to benefit players by helping them to avoid injury.
Performance sleeves do not only help to improve accuracy , efficiency and safety. Sleeves with compression will help to promote fresh supplies of blood and oxygen to arm and elbow tissues. They also assist the removal of waste fluids from those tissues. By doing so, they will defer the onset of fatigue and keep the pitcher or fielder performing at a high level for longer.
The benefits of performance sleeves for baseball players are not, however, limited to pitchers and fielders. They will also help to defer fatigue and reduce the injury risk for batters. However, for batters, the use of compression tops such as those shown below will yield even greater benefits in terms of performance, proprioception and the ability to ward off muscle fatigue.
Players can also reduce the risk of injury by following an appropriately designed off season training program for baseball players.