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PLAY BALL! What All Baseball Players Want to Avoid

ATI Physical Therapy Takes a Look at Common Baseball Injuries

If you’re a fan of baseball . . . or any other sport for that matter . . . you’ve heard the following words: strain, sprain, tear, pull, dislocation, and overuse.

As fans of America’s favorite pastime cheer for their teams in the post-season, these are words that no one wants to hear. So what are these injuries, and what do they mean?  Which ones are the most common?

With partners like the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies and Schaumburg Boomers, plus club, high school and college teams, the physical therapists and athletic trainers at ATI Physical Therapy are all too familiar with these conditions, knowing the mechanics behind the injury and what needs to be done to get the players back on the field safely and quickly. 

So, let’s take a look at the more common baseball injuries, what they are, and what they may mean for your favorite teams:

Strain: This injury affects the muscles or tendons (the bands that attach muscles to bones). A strain is caused by a quick pull, twist or micro-tear of the muscle, especially when muscles are not stretched or warmed-up properly.  This acute injury causes pain and weakness.  A strain can also be referred to as a “pulled muscle,” and depending on the severity of a strain, other terms such as “muscle tear” have been used. 

Sprain: Unlike a strain (which many use interchangeably) this injury affects the ligaments, the bands of tissue that attach bones to other bones. A sprain is caused by the ligament being stretched beyond its capacity, and can range from a mild stretch to a complete tear.  Bruising, lack of stability, swelling and pain are common symptoms one might experience from this injury.

Dislocation:  The displacement of a bone from a joint. The most common involve a finger, thumb, shoulder, or hip. A dislocation can cause loss of movement, temporary joint paralysis, pain and swelling.

Overuse:  An injury of the musculoskeletal system that results in tissue damage from repetitive demand over the course of time.

“With many of these common baseball injuries, the key to prevention and treatment is to have a good strength and conditioning program, good body mechanics, and the proper amount rest of for the body,” says Kimberly Kollwelter, physical therapist and vice president of operations with ATI Physical Therapy.

Fortunately for baseball fans, most injuries are not life, or career threatening for your favorite players.  With the proper diagnosis, rehabilitation and preventative care, these injuries can be short lived with little to no long-term effects. 

There is, however, one type of injury that is feared among players, especially pitchers: the shoulder injury.

“When a player presents with shoulder pain, I look at several things.  First, I look for the cause of the pain. Is it from overuse/stress, or something more serious?  If rest and therapy do not remedy the situation, there is the possibility of a tear, most commonly to the labrum,” says Kollwelter.

The labrum is a type of cartilage that goes around the shoulder socket.  Its job is to stabilize the shoulder by keeping the shoulder “ball” in place.  When this joint is stressed by overuse, tears can happen, causing pain and looseness.

In addition to the shoulder, baseball players can experience problems with their elbow, or more specifically, the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL).  This injury, also caused by repetitive stress from throwing, is a result of the ligament stretching, fraying or tearing. 

If all rehabilitative efforts fail, a doctor may need to perform surgery.  Surgeries for the shoulder can take nine to twelve months for a pitcher to fully recover, and rehabilitative time for UCL reconstruction can take one year for pitchers, and about six months for position players.  However, with any injury, the recovery period depends upon the extent of injury and what part of the body is damaged.

As the season winds down, let’s hope it ends with your favorite team and players making it to the “big game” on the diamond . . . injury free.  If not, there’s always next year.

ATI Physical Therapy is a nationally recognized comprehensive rehabilitation provider, specializing in research-based physical therapy and sports medicine. With over 190 clinics in seven states, ATI is known for exceptional results, personalized care, an inviting and energetic staff, and state-of-the-art equipment, ATI is taking physical therapy to a higher level.

If an injury is sidelining you, visit one of our clinics for a complimentary injury screening.  Visit www.ATIpt.com for more information.