How Can Young Baseball and Softball Players Avoid Common Injuries?

Play ball! Baseball and softball season is about to start, and we’re excited to cheer on players.

Whether your child is an elite athlete or a Little Leaguer, we want to keep them injury-free.

Connecticut Children’s sports physical therapist Dylan Roman, PT, DPT, shares how to spot common injuries early – and better yet, reduce the risk of them in the first place.

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Young baseball and softball players are especially at risk for injury.

That’s because they’re still growing: The ends of their bones have soft, open growth plates. It’s easy to damage these growth plates, and the ligaments and tendons around them.

In general, there are two categories of sports injuries: overuse injuries, and traumatic injuries.

Overuse injuries happen gradually, over time.

Overuse injuries are usually caused by repeating the same motion – like throwing. In fact, two throwing overuse injuries are so common in baseball and softball players, they even have “Little League” in the name.

  • Little League shoulder: Shoulder pain, especially when throwing or reaching overhead
  • Little League elbow: Pain on the inside of the elbow, especially when throwing

Traumatic injuries, like fractures and ligament tears, happen suddenly.

Traumatic injuries can be caused by anything, like a collision or fall. In baseball and softball, throwing is once again the most common cause.

  • Avulsion fractures: Sudden, severe pain on the inside of the elbow after a pitch, sometimes a popping sound or sensation
  • UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) injuries: Sudden elbow pain, stiffness and swelling; clumsiness or weakness in the hand; loss of speed or accuracy of throws

Because throwing injuries are so common, baseball and softball players should take these precautions.

  • Do a proper warm-up and cool-down. Here are tips.
  • Follow recommended pitch counts and rest requirements. Baseball and softball coaches should keep a careful eye on this. The numbers differ based on your child’s age and development, so talk to their coach or league for help understanding the plan. Then be diligent about sticking to it. (Follow these guidelines from the Little League Resource Guide.)
  • Focus on good form. Your child’s coach can help them with this too, and so can we. Connecticut Children’s sports physical therapists educate young athletes about proper mechanics, from daily activities to sport-specific movements like throwing and catching.
  • Play multiple positions. This helps players avoid the stress of repeating the exact same movements frequently. Avoid playing only pitcher and catcher for the same team because of all the throwing that these positions require.
  • Participate in an offseason strength program. Connecticut Children’s offers individualized training for athletes who want to improve their performance and prevent injury, including strength programs.
  • Get help from an expert in baseball and softball, like Connecticut Children’s sports physical therapists. Our team includes OnBaseU-certified experts, who have special training for baseball- and softball-specific movement screening.
  • Stop at the first sign of pain. Playing through some types of pain may lead to a traumatic or long-term injury.
  • Seek treatment if needed. As always, give a sports medicine or physical therapy specialist a call if you’re concerned about any injury.

> Related: Contact Connecticut Children’s sports physical therapy team today

Young Little League baseball player sliding into home

Baseball and softball players should follow general injury prevention tips, too.

Across all sports, there are some common rules to keeping young athletes injury-free. Most of them boil down to this: Don’t overdo it.

For baseball and softball, that means your young athlete:

  • Shouldn’t play on multiple baseball or softball teams at the same time, especially for pitchers and catchers.
  • Shouldn’t play year-round baseball or softball, or in another sport that uses similar overhead movements like tennis, quarterback or javelin. They should have at least three months off from throwing drills and overhead activities per year.
  • Should play multiple sports year-round, not just baseball or softball.

In general, having kids play just one sport can lead to overuse injuries. Instead, it’s healthier for them to practice different movements and build the different muscle groups required for different sports.

Could your athlete benefit from an individualized training program?

Connecticut Children’s offers sports performance training to help young baseball and softball players improve strength, balance, mobility, coordination and conditioning. Individualized assessments by our certified exercise physiologists and athletic trainers will guide your athlete towards reaching their full potential.

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