Baseball is, undoubtedly, the most played sport in the United States and many young players are getting involved with baseball every single day. While this is a positive for the game, injuries related to baseball are also on the rise, especially in the young athletes, and the situation is quickly becoming an epidemic. Although baseball isn’t a contact sport, contact injuries do occur, but the main causes are overuse, wear, improper technique, and over-exertion. It is crucial to know how to keep your body fit and performing at the maximum level. So here are 15 ways to prevent baseball injuries.
#01 Warming Up
Each and every sport requires that players warm up before hand and this is particularly crucial in baseball. A proper warm up is necessary in order to allow for proper blood circulation throughout your body. This helps to get your muscles pumped up and ready for action. The warm up also increases your breathing rate and heartbeat and puts you in the state of optimal physical activity. This gears you up for the game by bringing your body out of the rest state. This not only helps prevents injuries by readying your body for the intensity of the game but also improves your on-field performance several times.
Stretching is not like the traditional warm up. In your warm up, you are simply improving blood flow throughout your body, and preparing your body for action by increasing heart rate, breathing, and circulation. In stretching, you are targeting the core muscle groups and working those muscles, taking them to full extension and full contraction, thus eliminating any muscular lethargy. The muscle fibers are stimulated and ready for action, while body flexibility and mobility also increase. All these factors activate your muscles and make your motions smooth and coordinated, thus helping to prevent the likelihood of injuries to your muscles and joints.
#03 Ensure Proper Equipment and Safety Gear
In any and every sport, there are a few safety gears that players are required to wear and in it the same case in baseball, where the players are required to wear the proper equipment and have on the necessary safety gear. All your equipment has to fit properly, and they must have been broken in or adjusted accordingly in training or previous games. Avoid using totally brand new equipment. The proper equipment will help boost your performance, and the correct safety gear will protect you during any collisions and allow you to play fearlessly without any scare of getting an injury.
#04 Follow the Pitch Count Guidelines
While most young athletes are encouraged to practice often and pitch regularly nowadays, this may have some drawbacks. Young pitchers often want to pitch every innings and in every game, but this puts a great toll on their still developing bodies. The shoulder and arms are greatly affected, and the rotator cuff muscles can undergo serious strain and injury as a result of over-pitching. Therefore, it is very important for coaches and parents to strictly abide by the pitch count guidelines established by Little League Baseball and only practice age-appropriate pitching, in order to ensure the proper arm health of the athlete in the long run.
#05 Avoid Pitching All Year Round or Overlapping Seasons
Youngsters and teens are now playing all year round and most of the new breed of athletes play on multiple teams. This means that they are playing all year round and their seasons are overlapping. While this is a good thing when it comes to the amount of game time they are getting under their belt, for pitchers, pitching all year round can have a damaging impact on their body. Overuse is the main reason for most shoulder and arm injuries amongst pitchers, including the dreaded UCL tear. Therefore, players should be advised against pitching all year round and not to overlap their pitching seasons.
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#06 Change Positions on the Field
When playing for long seasons or if there is a large number of games to be played within a short period of time, it is advised to not allow pitchers to play as a pitcher in all those games, as it will definitely put a strain on the pitcher’s arm and can inevitably lead to injuries. In this situation, the pitcher can rotate his position, switching up from pitcher to either keeper or catcher. This will help to relax his pitching arm, while also giving him the valuable experience of the game. Thus, pitchers are encouraged to be flexible in a multitude of positions in order to reduce risks of injuries.
#07 Give Yourself Optimum Rest
Sufficient rest and recovery time is vital to maintaining body fitness and performance levels. Without the adequate recovery time, the performance levels start to drop, and the body starts to compromise on certain aspects regarding its well-being. A body that has been fully rested can protect itself from injuries whereas a body that hasn’t recovered properly is prone to all sorts of short term and long term injuries. Time for training and practice also affect a body’s rest and recover, and so it is good to incorporate rest days into an athlete’s routine to allow his body to recover and keep performing consistently in the long run.
#08 Play on a Safe Field
It is not uncommon to hear of a catcher in the outfield tripping over a rock or mound during a game, or for a fielder to injure himself by falling into a pit. A poor playing surface can lead to all sorts of injuries from twisted ankles to sprained wrists and even broken backs and necks. Thus, before you step out onto the field, you must examine the playing surface thoroughly and watch out for any area that may be risky, be it in the infield or the outfield. A thorough field assessment and proper precautions during a game can help prevent injuries that result from an uneven playing surface.
#09 Work on Your Technique
The incorrect pitching technique can easily cause shoulder dislocations or UCL tears in pitchers that may even be severe enough to end their careers. Pitchers should focus on honing their techniques and focus later on curve balls. The correct technique will help improve their longevity and performance. For batters, an incorrect stance can lead to back injuries, while upper body and wrist injuries are also common. Thus batters should have the proper stance and a good grip that protects their bodies and also allows for maximum strength. The proper body mechanics, therefore, can help reduce the chances of injuries among players.
#10 Never Play Through Pain
If a player feels any sort of discomfort at the start of a game, that means he hasn’t recovered well or that he as some sort of fitness issue. He should be assessed thoroughly and should avoid playing the game, as playing with a slight injury can quickly and very easily become a career threatening situation. Getting a knock in-game, or suffering an injury, such as a muscle pull or a sprain during a game should also be treated with the utmost caution and players should come off immediately. Avoid playing through pain at all costs as it can lead to serious and drastic long term injuries.
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#11 Train your Body
In each and every sport, it is important to go through the necessary training in order to build up your body. Baseball involves a lot of rotational movements so training should focus on strengthening the shoulder muscles, hip and abdominal muscles, the back muscles and triceps muscles of the arm amongst other muscles. The body’s flexibility and mobility should also be improved through training. All these will propel your game, taking it to the next level and the training will assist in speeding up your body’s recovery, thus lowering the chances of an injury.
#12 Develop Age-appropriate Skills
Young players are often encouraged to pick up the game as fast as possible and are therefore made to learn and attempt skills that are much too developed for their age group. This puts an undue stress on their bodies and pushes their physical limitations, making them prone to injuries. Instead, they should only practice age appropriate skills and work with proper guidelines. Pitchers can learn the fastball first, followed by the change-up before moving on to breaking pitches, as this puts the least stress on their shoulders and arms. This ensures they have the proper, healthy growth as a player, and protects them from muscle and bone injuries.
#13 Good Communication is Vital
Young players should be instilled with the knowledge to always communicate with the coaches regarding how the feel and whether or not they are performing fully or if any discomfort is hampering their performance. This helps to assess a player’s fitness and identify injury risks early on so that they can be treated before it is too late. If necessary, players can also talk to medical professionals or an athletic trainer if there is any concern regarding body fitness and well-being. It is important to discuss on strategies to avoid and prevent baseball injuries and maintain the optimal functioning capacity of the body over time.
# 14 Use your Head
Head injuries are the worst sort of sports injuries and their consequences traverse the boundaries of the sporting world all the day into personal life. Thus, it is very important to take any and all preventive measures possible against head injuries in baseball. Batters and catchers should always wear helmets to protect themselves from the fast pitches. Base runners should be strongly discouraged from head first sliding for the bases as this can lead to terrible collisions and drastic head trauma afterwards. Simply by being cautious and careful, and being smart regarding the issue, players can easily prevent head injuries in the game.
#15 Take Care of Your Body
Taking care of one’s body, maintaining proper health and fitness, training well and eating healthy are all important aspects of any athlete’s life, in order to improve the consistency in his performance and enhance the longevity of his career. These help to tone and condition his body to adapt to the grueling demands placed on it as a result of the intense athletic activities it undergoes and a proper regimen will help to keep the body healthy and free from injuries for a long time. Good practices in terms of exercising and eating and likely to reduce the chances of injury by several folds and improve overall health and performance of the player as well.
As a baseball player, injuries are most often due to overuse or lethargy, or otherwise due to unwise practices on and off the field. A disciplined lifestyle should help to reduce the chances of an injury, and adhering to League regulations prevent overuse. A good warm up, stretching and developing the proper technique are also crucial, as is the need for proper safety gear and equipment. All these not only help to reduce the likelihood of injuries, but also improve the player’s game on the diamond. Prevent yourself from getting side-lined by getting enough rest, training correctly and hard and by never playing through the pain. Do not throw too hard, too much, too early or without rest, as it makes you prone to injuries.