Baseball is a sport that incites great passion among both the players and the fans. Interest in baseball has been growing within Australia over the past few years, and we have some great players. Many Australian players are now being recognised by high level teams in America.
Baseball is a dynamic sport that combines a range of skills including throwing, catching, hitting and sprinting which while fun to play and watch, can of course potentially lead to many injuries.
The upper limb (shoulder and elbow) is the most common area for injury or breakdown due to the speed and action of throwing. Poor technique, inadequate warm up and overuse remain the top causes of the injuries seen below.
Rotator Cuff Injuries:
These occur when one of the four muscles which hold your shoulder in its socket are overused repetitively which leads to inflammation and tears due to the extremely high stresses placed on the shoulder with overhand throwing. Overtraining may lead to shoulder pain due to fatigued muscles (muscles having to work harder in a weakened condition) as well poor pitching or throwing mechanics. Initially pain is felt during or immediately after throwing, although as it worsens (athletes throwing/pitching through the pain), pain can be felt at rest or during the night. Pain may be poorly localised and deep within the shoulder. A reproducible click or painful catch may indicate a tear within the cartilage of the socket (glenoid labrum – SLAP lesion). Rest and an appropriate rehabilitation program is essential to ensure a safe and successful return to baseball.
Other shoulder injuries:
Shoulder impingement, shoulder instability, scapular dysfunction and bicep tears/tendinopathies are also quite common in baseball players as when one structure becomes weakened due to overuse, the other structures around the shoulder need to manage the burden and take on extra stresses.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL):
The UCL acts as a stabiliser for the elbow to prevent it from bending sideways and is commonly injured in baseball pitchers due to the stress of repetitive motions when throwing at high speeds. Pain and stiffness is felt on the inside of the elbow and even some numbness or tingling in the ring and little fingers can occur. UCL injuries can be treated conservatively with physiotherapy, although sometimes surgery is needed if the instability continues (many MLB players have undergone ‘Tommy John surgery” or USL reconstruction with varying outcomes).
Lumbar Spine Injuries:
Due to the twisting or rotational force required for pitching and swinging a baseball bat, the vertebrae lumbar spine can be placed under high tension and may result in a stress fracture known as a pars defect or spondylolysis. This is especially common in the adolescent age group and is treated conservatively with rest and physiotherapy. If this is left untreated, it may progress to spondylolisthesis which is when the fractured vertebra slips out of position which can impact the nerves nearby and lead to muscle spasms as well as back, hamstring and hip flexor tightness. In severe cases, spinal fusion surgery is required to stabilise the spine if the vertebra continues to slip out of place. Poor mechanics/techniques often contribute to back injuries and strains for baseball players.
Mallet or Baseball Finger:
This is when the tendon responsible for straightening the end joint of a finger or thumb is injured from an excessive bending force. This is commonly seen in baseball when a base runner collides with a fixed base or their finger is hit with a ball which causes it to bend further than it is usually able to. Splints are often needed to assist with keeping the tip of the finger or thumb straight.
The most common injuries are to the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). These generally occur during base running due to the sudden stopping or turning while running as well as landing on a bent knee when attempting to slide.
Christie is a physiotherapist in our Penrith office. She has a special interest in sports and paediatric conditions. And baseball. Christie loves baseball.
Since 2011 Christie has represented Blacktown Workers A-Grade in the NSW Women’s State League Comp.
From 2012 until 2014, she have represented the NSW Country side at the National Women’s Baseball Championships. Christie represented the Aussie Stars during the lead-up to the 2012 World Cup Series in Canada. During winter Christie plays for Lions Baseball on the Central Coast.