Baseball Injuries: Fact vs Fiction

Baseball season is almost in full swing and The Sports Rehabilitation Center is doing their part to stay on top of the latest research on baseball injuries. Several members of our staff attended the 38th Annual “Injuries in Baseball” conference presented by the American Sports Medicine Institute.  The dynamic group of presenters was comprised of the “who’s who” of the baseball medicine community including the renowned Dr. James Andrews. While our staff was exposed to the latest research in the areas of prevention and treatment of baseball injuries, we felt good knowing that the principles we apply and teach at The Sports Rehabilitation Center are backed up by scientific evidence and the experts. We have summarized what we believe are the key educational points that coaches, parents, and players need to understand with regard to baseball injury prevention and treatment.

1. Pitchers of all ages need to monitor pitch count and innings pitched, while ensuring that they take off at least 4 months from PITCHING activities.

2. Perhaps the biggest culprit of developing an upper extremity injury is pitching with fatigue

a. If a player states their arm feels “tired”, remove them immediately. Do not wait until they report soreness or pain…by then, it’s too late.

b. Look for signs of fatigue

          •  Decreased pitch accuracy/failure to “hit their spots”
          • Changes in arm slot/elbow drops
          • Changes in stride length

3. The consensus amongst the experts is that the use of weighted balls to develop or increase velocity is not worth the risk of injury, particularly for a youth baseball player. If a player wants to use a weighted ball, the following criteria must be satisfied:

a. Growth plates are closed

b. The player is actively involved in a shoulder conditioning program and general strengthening program.

c. The weight of the ball does not exceed 6 oz.

d. The program does not exceed 3 months.

4. The best way to safely improve velocity is to:

a. Be actively involved in a shoulder conditioning program and general strengthening that also focuses on the hips and core.

b. Ensure that there are no limitations in range of motion or flexibility around the shoulder, spine, hips, or lower extremity.

5. The faster a pitcher throws, especially at the youth level, the higher the risk of elbow and shoulder injuries, regardless of mechanics, because of increased stress on the ligaments.

a. If your child has a “golden arm” and throws 5-10 mph greater than normal for their age, place a greater restriction on pitch count and innings pitched then if your child is not a “velo” pitcher. Unfortunately, the players who throw with greater velocity are overused to ensure a team’s win.

6. With all this information suggesting that players are overdoing it, keep this in mind:

 a. Prior to bone maturation, a player who plans to be a pitcher or a high level baseball player MUST engage in year round throwing (not pitching) or “tossing” (not long tossing) to ensure their bones “mold” in a way that will allow the needed amount of external rotation.

If you have any questions or would like to have a baseball assessment, please contact The Sports Rehabilitation Center.