This is a great time of year for baseball players to get ready for their season. Currently, it is the sport that we have the most athletes of right now.
We also have a lot going on with baseball rentals, clinics, and events. Needless to say, baseball players are on the top of my mind.
Baseball is a really unique sport. Some would say that interest in it is down. I’m not seeing it. It is as popular as ever and a lot of kids are still playing.
The injury risk is still a black spot on the sport though. I think there has been a lot of good strides towards limiting the amount that a pitcher can throw.
On the other hand, there are more opportunities to play more and more baseball than ever before so it is hard to manage an athlete that plays for two teams plus does pitching on the side.
Baseball players get hurt from overuse.
Throwing is a unique and unnatural movement. That is part of the reason why MLB pitchers go every 5 days but softball pitchers can go every game. The underhand movement is a lot more natural than throwing overhand.
When we then add a volume that players cannot tolerate, the only thing that can happen is injury.
I have a few tips for how baseball players can reduce overuse and injury risk.
I personally think that baseball should only be played in the spring and part of the summer. When I was younger we played quite a bit in the spring and a couple times a week in June and July.
Now the norm seems to be that kids are playing every day from March through August. Next up is fall ball which may not be every day but still a decent commitment. Then, winter training starts up as soon as it gets kind of cold. This doubles for those playing on multiple teams.
Low and behold we have a year round sport. Playing one sport year round is not good for overuse. The body never gets a chance to recover.
Pick one season to play a different sport completely. Try to avoid throwing and even potentially rotational sports. The goal is to get away from the demands of baseball so avoiding similar ones will be helpful.
The professionals might not touch a baseball from October to January. Follow their lead.
Specialization can go two ways for baseball players. One is to play multiple sports. The other is to avoid becoming just a pitcher too early on.
Baseball players can pretty much choose any sport that does not require throwing to avoid overuse. Soccer, hockey, basketball, and football (non QB) would all require very different movement patterns.
The goal is to develop some other athletic skills while giving the arm a break.
I also do not like to see young athletes declare themselves a pitcher. It is better to hear that they pitch but not all the time.
It is better when a good pitcher also plays multiple positions in the field. Luckily, roster sizes pretty much force this. I don’t think any sub-college team has the ability to have a pitching rotation that doesn’t play the field.
Avoid pigeon-holing yourself into just pitching.
Overuse injuries occur when the stress placed on the body is too much for it to handle.
We can do two things simultaneously to handle this. Decreasing the amount of stress by limiting the amount of time throwing both in the season and through the year is one. The other is to increase the amount of force that the body can withstand.
Increasing force production and absorption is done through strength training. I like to see baseball players get as strong as they possibly can.
But some people wonder if strength training is going to add to overuse. Most young athletes are not experienced in strength training. The movements are new to them. It can sometimes serve as an additional “sport” for these athletes.
The only time that strength training is going to contribute to overuse is if a program is trying to simulate baseball too similarly.
We do also take precautions about keeping the shoulder out of potentially compromising positions. I don’t think having a pitcher bench press is necessarily going to hurt them, but there are better exercises that we can choose to safely increase strength.