When it comes to baseball, or any sport for that matter, you’re only as good as your body allows you to be. If you’re not 100%, it will be difficult to achieve your goals and show your true potential. Many elite baseball players are now placing a larger focus on injury prevention in order to gain an edge, as staying healthy will not only maximize exposure, but it will also allow you to get the most out of your training sessions, whether it be batting practice, or taking some grounders during warm-up. Coaches have caught on to this as well, encouraging their players to learn more about anatomy and engage in discussions with teams doctors.
So why are we focusing on the upper body in this article? Of course, your legs are essential for baseball, but the sport is somewhat unique in that it places a tremendous amount of stress on your arms and shoulders. Overhead mechanics combined with sprinting, sliding, and jumping, all lead to baseball being one of the most physically demanding sports, especially when we focus on the joints of the body.
Upper Body Injuries in Baseball
If you’ve played or watched baseball before, you may be familiar with the term “Tommy John Surgery“, which is one of the most common injuries in baseball, especially for pitchers. Briefly, this surgery consists of repairing the ligament on the medial (inside) part of the elbow with tissue from a tendon somewhere else in the body. It’s called Tommy John surgery, as it was originally developed for the pitcher Tommy John.
Given the amount of torque that pitchers place on their throwing elbow pitch after pitch, it’s really hard to see this one coming, making it difficult to avoid. However, if you have suffered from this injury once before, then there are many things you can do to ensure a proper rehabilitation process, as well as methods you can employ once you return to training that can help prevent injuring the ligament again.
For the former, this just involves being patient and taking proper care. You may have to wear a pretty highly supportive elbow brace at first, and lots of players avoid these due to the immobilization that can make them antsy, instead opting for a sling. However, these days, many of these braces have functions that allow you to gradually incorporate limited ranges of motion, so you can really ease your way back into things. Once you’re back to training, arm sleeves that provide some support, albeit minimal support, can also provide a little bit of added stability, as well as therapeutic heat in case the joint becomes painful. Developing a maintenance routine with the athletic trainer, whereby you essentially commit to a small training program based completely on your elbow’s health, can also help prevent further injury. These aren’t set in concrete, but rather, can be developed through discussion with your trainer or physiotherapist.
Baseball players with poor posture, or those who do not adequately strengthen and stretch the shoulder joint to the degree they should, often risk developing impingement of the shoulder joint. There can be many different ways that this takes form, but often times it results from inflammation of the shoulder muscles, particularly the rotator cuff muscles, as they pass through the shoulder joint, leading to decreased flexibility and a high level of pain.
Fortunately, this is a common problem in many sports (whereas Tommy John injuries are a little more baseball-specific). Athletic trainers and physiotherapists alike are all well-versed in dealing with these sorts of shoulder ailments, but like anything else, getting it treated early will provide the best results. Sometimes you may need to limit the movement of your shoulder between treatment sessions while it heals, so some players opt to wear a sling or other type of shoulder support to help them maintain a neutral shoulder position without compromising comfort.
At the end of the day, the main thing you can do to prevent injuries is to listen to your body and actively engage in discussions with the team trainer or your physiotherapist. These professionals are highly knowledgeable and can provide you with some additional tools to help keep you on the field and performing at 100%.