Baseball, also known as America’s pastime, is a competitive sport between two opposing teams that is played with a bat and leather ball. The main movements that are part of this sport are sprinting, crossover running, shuffling, and rotational movements such as throwing. These movements are usually in short spurts which can then be followed by long periods of rest. Movement within this sport can be different depending on the player’s position. For instance, a pitcher will be using maximal force repetitively every few minutes versus an outfielder who will use explosive sprinting with jumping or squatting less frequently. Therefore, the players bodies need to be conditioned to be able to handle these biomechanical forces to decrease the risk of injury.
Unfortunately like in any competitive or even recreationally played sport, there are common injuries that baseball players experience. The most common injuries in baseball players are:
- Shoulder injuries (rotator cuff tear, labrum tear etc.)
- Knee internal derangements (meniscus, anterior cruciate ligament tears etc.)
- Elbow Sprains (ulnar collateral ligament tear etc.)
- Head Injuries (concussions)
- Muscles strains (hamstring, infraspinatus etc.)
- Ankle sprains
Although all sports come with a risk of injury, the good news is we can prevent these injuries and also treat them if they do occur. As health care professionals our main focus is to make sure these athletes are prepared to be able to go out and play the sport safely and in optimal fitness for the forces they will encounter on the field. There are many ways in which we can prevent injury with our patients.
When beginning the process of conditioning an athlete to be strong and play without injury or helping them to recover from an injury it’s important to go through a series of steps.
1. Medical History
This allows the clinician to have a better idea of the big picture of the athlete’s previous injuries and any pain or weaknesses they are dealing with. This helps to direct the physical and plan of management.
2. Functional Screening
In this portion of the assessment, the clinician will test range of motion, neurologic, orthopaedic, as well as functional movements specific to baseball. From there they can determine any imbalances in the athlete’s range of motion, strength, flexibility and/or any painful areas.
3. Plan of Management
After completing the history and physical exam, this allows our Chiropractors or Physiotherapists to be able to come up with a plan of management. When implementing their care plan they will approach it using Manual Therapy, Education, Strengthening Exercises and Mobility Exercises.
Chiropractors and Physiotherapists use a series of techniques that help to optimize the movement and function of the body. These techniques are focused on the nervous system, muscles and joints. We are highly trained to work on soft tissue to help release any tension or tightness, mobilize and adjust joints in order to allow them to move without restriction. All of the following allow improved range of motion, speed recovery or prevent injury.
Education, Strengthening Exercises and Mobility Exercises
Within a plan of management, it is crucial your Chiropractor or Physiotherapist to educate you on why they are doing the technique so you understand the goal. It is important that the athlete feels autonomous in the process so they can learn to know exactly what they need to be at the top of their performance. The following are some specific strengthening exercises and mobility work that help with certain areas of the movements in baseball.
Shoulder Mobility: Wall 90/90s
- Standing with the upper arms and mid back against the wall, abduct shoulders to 90 degrees and flex the elbows to 90 degrees
- Bring the back of the hands up and back towards the wall (never letting your mid back come off the wall) as far as possible
- Hold for 5-10 seconds
- Bring the front of the hands down and back towards the wall as far as possible – hold for 5-10 seconds
- Repeat 10-15 times
This exercise is important to open up the shoulder joint and increase flexibility in the upper back. This is beneficial for throwing and catching.
Hip Mobility: Windshield Wipers
- Sitting with feet on the ground out in front of you and your hands behind you bring your knees down and over to the right side (be sure to keep your buttocks on the ground)
- Hold for 5-10 seconds
- Repeat on opposite side
- Repeat 10-15 times
This hip mobility exercise is important for any type of athlete but is especially important for pitchers. When a pitcher throws the ball 50-60% of the force comes from the legs, 60% of the speed comes from their core and under 40% comes from the shoulder. Therefore if there is a reduction of function in the lower extremity then there is a significantly higher amount of stress on the shoulder. So as you can imagine this means that hip mobility is incredibly important for a pitcher so they can save their shoulder from becoming fatigued, or worse, injured.
Agility: Plyometric Training
Plyometric training is any exercise involving repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles (as by jumping and rebounding) to increase muscle power.
This type of training is the best kind for baseball players because it mimics the quick movement required during a game. This allows for their bodies to be prepared for any fast and high intensity movements while playing.
Finally, it is not only important to make sure that the players are conditioned properly to reduce the risk of injury, but there are other safety procedures that can help as well. These are some tips that allow a more safe game:
- Limiting amount of pitches
- Teaching proper techniques
- Breakaway bases
- Batting helmets, mouth guards, elbow guards and shin guards
- Safety balls
- Proper warm up and cool down
If you have any questions or are interested in improving your game please contact us and one of our Chiropractors or Physiotherapists will be happy to be involved in optimizing your movement to match the level of play you want to be at. We are also here to help you recover from injury and prevent it from recurring in the future.
- Robb, A., 2014. Arm Injuries Among Baseball Players.
- Lyman, S., & Fleisig, G. S. (2005). Baseball Injuries. Epidemiology of Pediatric Sports Injuries Medicine and Sport Science, 9-30.