Common Baseball Injuries and How to Quickly Recover
Spring training is a time of optimism for baseball players around the country, but injuries can dash those hopes and turn them into crushing disappointments. Baseball players rely on skill and technique to hit, catch and throw the ball, which means even a minor injury can sideline them for weeks or even months. Injuries suffered after being struck by a pitch or sliding into home plate may be unavoidable, but most baseball injuries are caused by repetitive motion or poor technique and could be prevented.
Most Common Baseball Injuries
Baseball does not require the physical exertion of contact sports like football, rugby or hockey, so broken bones, concussions and catastrophic joint injuries are fairly rare. Baseball players do, however, take different risks. They repeat the same motions over and over again, which makes them prone to the kind of nagging injury that can take a lot of time to recover from. Here are some of the most common types of injury suffered by baseball players:
- Overuse injuries: These sports-related injuries are microtrauma to muscles, ligaments, tendons or bones that are caused by repeatedly performing the same action. Starting pitchers are especially prone to overuse injuries because they go through the wind-up and delivery motion up to 100 times in each game they play.
- Strains and sprains: Baseball players are rarely on the receiving end of jarring hits, but they do exert a great deal of effort when they run the bases, chase down a fly ball or try to throw a baserunner out at the plate. This sometimes leads to shoulder, arm or ankle sprains or strains.
- Wrist and hand fractures: A baseball bat moves at about 80 mph when a hitter swings at a pitch, and the ball travels at about the same speed when they make contact. Being hit by a bat or ball moving at these speeds can easily fracture delicate wrist and hand bones.
- Knee injuries: Playing baseball well involves making a lot of fast starts, quick stops and sharp turns. When the body is moving quickly in one direction, a sudden turn puts a great deal of stress on the knees.
- Concussions: Catchers have the most dangerous job in baseball, which is why they wear so much protective gear. However, that gear is sometimes not enough to prevent them from suffering concussions after being hit by fastballs or swinging bats.
Types of Injuries
Baseball is an extremely specialized sport, which is why players tend to remain in the same position throughout their careers. Pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders all master skills unique to their positions, and the injuries they suffer also tend to be specific to their roles. Let’s take a look at the most common injuries baseball players suffer when they run the bases or throw, hit or catch the ball.
Pitchers, especially starting pitchers, are extremely susceptible to shoulder and elbow injuries. One of the most debilitating and common pitcher injuries is a torn ulnar collateral ligament. This is the ligament on the inside of the elbow that secures and stabilizes the elbow joint. This injury is treated by collateral ligament reconstruction or “Tommy John” surgery as it is more commonly known. Pitchers are also frequently sidelined by elbow tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries and tears to the labral tissue that surrounds and protects the top of the shoulder.
Catchers spend almost their entire time on the field crouched in a very unnatural position. The human body has evolved to walk, run and jump, but it is not built to take the stresses catchers subject it to. Bending the knee joint past 90 degrees and then placing weight on it stretches tendons and ligaments, and it can damage the cartilage that separates the bones in the knee joint. Catchers are also susceptible to lower back problems that can recur without warning.
When a hitter swings at a baseball, they twist their hips and turn their knees to increase the speed of the bat and the power of the hit. This motion can hyper-flex the knee joint and tear the menisci, which are two pieces of cartilage in each knee that separate the tibia and femur. Hitters can also suffer fractures or other impact injuries when they are struck by pitches on the hands, wrists, elbows or knees, not to mention getting a shoulder injury from swinging a bat.
Baserunners are injured in two ways. They can suffer baseball knee injuries when they make fast turns or stops, and they can be sidelined by impact injuries when they are involved in violent collisions. The knee injuries suffered by baserunners are often tears to the anterior cruciate ligament or medial collateral ligament, which are both extremely serious. Treating these injuries usually requires surgery, and recovering completely can take up to four years.
Infielders and outfielders are injured most often when they attempt to throw runners out. Throwing at high velocity places a great deal of stress on the shoulder, which can weaken the joint over time. This weakness increases the chances of suffering a superior labral anterior posterior tear (SLAP). These tears are very bad news for fielders because they compromise the area where the bicep tendon attaches to the shoulder, which makes even gentle throwing motions extremely painful.
Baseball Injury Treatment and Recovery
Some baseball injuries are minor and only sideline a player for an inning or two, but others are debilitating and can keep players out of action for a year or longer. The time it takes to recover from a baseball injury varies from player to player and injury to injury. Some baseball injuries will require the attention of an orthopedic surgeon, while others can be treated with an ice pack and some rest. Here are some of the methods used to treat common baseball injuries:
- Surgery: Serious injuries like Grade 3 ACL or MCL tears, torn ulnar collateral ligaments and severe labral tears usually require surgery. The time it takes to recover from these injuries depends on the skill of the surgeon, whether or not the player has suffered a similar injury in the past and the severity of the tear.
- Physical therapy: When baseball injuries are not serious enough to require surgery but too severe to be treated adequately with rest, the prescription is usually a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy sessions. These sessions focus on stretching and strengthening the affected area, and a player may have to endure them for months before returning to normal training.
- Rest: Some common baseball injuries like strains and sprains are treated with time and rest. Returning to action before one of these injuries has healed completely is a pitfall that many players fall into, and it can turn a week on the injured reserve list into a season-long absence.
- Training: Weight training is often included in an injured baseball player’s recovery program because adding strength to the muscles surrounding the shoulder, knee and elbow joints takes the pressure off tendons and ligaments and makes further injury less likely.
- Icing: Most baseball fans have seen pitchers sitting in a dugout between innings with huge ice packs strapped to their shoulders. Ice reduces swelling, eases pain and prevents injuries from getting worse, but ice packs should not be left on for more than 20 minutes to reduce the chances of frostbite.
Baseball Injury Prevention
The best way to avoid recovering from a baseball injury is not to get injured in the first place. Most baseball players who spend time on the sidelines are recovering from overuse injuries that could have been prevented. If you don’t want to miss a minute of the action, here are some of the things you can do to keep you in the game:
- Warm up: Warming up before a baseball game gets the blood pumping, loosens the joints and relaxes the muscles. All players should stretch and either jog or ride a stationary bicycle before a training session or game, and then they should perform specific warm-up exercises based on the positions they play.
- Speak up: Earning a place on a baseball team is not easy, and players often ignore or downplay minor injuries to keep their spots. This is a big mistake because minor injuries tend to develop into serious injuries when players do not take time off to rest and recuperate.
- Eat right: The human body needs the right fuel to perform at its best, which is why the unhealthy snacks that baseball players once enjoyed in the dugout are now a relic of the past.
- Get enough rest: Fatigue on the baseball diamond leads to mistakes and injuries. Rest is especially important for baseball players because they never know how long a game will last. In 2018, a contest between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox took 18 innings and six hours to decide.
- Wear the right clothing: The clothing that baseball players wear while they warm up and during games can help them to avoid injuries or make injuries more likely. Shoes should fit snugly but not be tight, and braces can be worn to support vulnerable joints. TRUEENERGY® compression socks and knee sleeves can also help players to remain on the field because they improve circulation and make sure that joints and muscles receive enough oxygen. They can also reduce discomfort and swelling.
Improve Performance and Prevent Injuries
Baseball injuries are rarely career-ending, but they often lead to prolonged spells on the sidelines. If you want to avoid that fate, you should warm up thoroughly before every game. You should also wear clothing that is designed to improve performance and prevent injuries. TRUEENERGY® has a complete line of compression socks and knee sleeves for men and women, and they are available in several styles and more than a dozen colors. If you want to learn more about the performance benefits of compression socks, you can get the answers you are looking for by calling us at (800) 395-4290 or using our online form.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the three most common baseball injuries?
The three most common baseball injuries overall are tears and other microtraumas caused by overuse, knee injuries caused by sudden stops and quick turns and sprains and strains. If you follow MLB, the most common injuries include those above, followed by contact injuries such as cuts and contusions due to contact with balls and bats.
How do athletes cope with an injury?
Most players cope with baseball injuries by focusing on returning to action as quickly as possible. Having a positive mental outlook is crucial because despair can set in quickly when people are denied the things they love.
What is the most common injury for baseball players?
Each position is different. Pitchers usually suffer elbow or shoulder injuries, while hitters and baserunners are usually sidelined by knee problems.
How do you treat a baseball injury?
That all depends on the type of injury. Major ligament tears usually require surgery, but minor sprains and strains can often be treated with ice between innings.
How can I speed up my sports injury recovery?
If you want to get back into action as quickly as possible, you should listen to your doctors and trainers, get plenty of rest, avoid activities that could make your injury worse and wear compression socks to improve your blood circulation.