It’s almost that time of year again when kids are ready to hit the field and play baseball! It’s one of the most beloved youth sports in the U.S. and around the world and a great way for young people to get out and be active. But like all youth sports, there is the danger of injury if young athletes aren’t careful.
Every year, preventable injuries force hundreds of Little Leaguers to the bench for the rest of the season. The most common issues usually occur in the shoulders and elbows thanks to vigorous throwing, but there are other possible injuries parents and coaches should be aware of as well. Let’s look at some of these issues and see what can be done to keep players injury free this season.
By far the most common Little League-related injuries we see in our office are shoulder and elbow injuries. Throwing a baseball can put a lot of strain on these joints, causing problems with ligament and muscle strains and tears. These injuries can range from minor strains that only require rest and physical therapy, all the way to career-ending tears which are extremely painful and could require multiple surgeries to correct.
The one thing these injuries have in common is that they tend to stem from arms that are not strong enough for the strain put upon them. Much like any other sport, youth baseball requires players to participate in regular stretching and strengthening exercises to train their arm joints to handle the stress of throwing. Before each game and as part of practice sessions, warm-ups are essential to injury prevention.
Another common cause leading to elbow and shoulder injury is poor coaching. Responsible coaches (and parents) should monitor the number of pitches each player is throwing in a week – this count includes practice pitches, not just those thrown in games. There are clear guidelines for each age range for injury prevention purposes:
Types of pitches also have very clear guidelines based on age. The pitching guidelines exist because certain pitches require more strength than others and throwing them too early can lead to severe injury. The standard rules of thumb are:
For parents with a particularly talented player, pay close attention to how often they are expected to throw the ball. It is not uncommon for players who are more advanced to be pushed harder than others on their team, both by their own motivation and that of their coaches. Ensure their abilities don’t force them into a position that is potentially harmful to their health.
While elbow and shoulder injuries often get the most coverage in the world of Little League, other injuries are also common, including impact injuries from being struck with a ball or leg injuries due to sprinting or sliding.
To protect against impact injuries, all players should wear helmets, and the catcher should be wearing proper padding. The playing field should also have protective fencing around the dugout and other seating areas.
All players should learn how to slide feet first into the bases properly. Proper form helps prevent strains and sprains in the ankles. Proper footwear also helps to prevent leg injuries while running to bases or while trying to catch the ball.
By following these simple tips, you can help to prevent injuries in your Little Leaguer:
If your young athlete has experienced an injury or a pain that just won’t go away, it’s probably time to give us a call. We will evaluate the issue and help to find the best course of action for getting them out on the field as soon as possible!