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Baseball Injury Prevention & Diagnosis

Posted on July 27, 2022 in Primary Care Sports Medicine, Regenerative Medicine, Rotator Cuff & Shoulder by Dr. Joshua Hackel

While baseball is considered a non-contact sport, injuries and conditions related to America’s favorite pastime can yield equally traumatic consequences if not correctly diagnosed and treated. Aside from painful strains, sprains and bruises, the most common injuries that players experience are overuse of the rotator cuff in the shoulder and ulnar collateral ligament tears in the elbow.

Due to the game’s repetitive nature, it’s imperative that coaches and players alike keep in mind the importance of preventative measures such as pre-season physical exams, warming up and cooling down before practices and games, and staying hydrated. Additionally, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends the following:

Proper Technique:

  • Players should be taught techniques for sliding and must practice, beginning with a sliding bag, before being allowed to slide during a game. They must also be taught and observe the “obstruction” rule, which prevents the fielding player from obstructing the runner’s path without possession of the ball.
  • To prevent foot and ankle injuries between the runner and fielder on first base, a “double bag” should be used, so both the runner and first baseman have their own base.
  • Follow established guidelines to limit the number and types of pitches thrown based on the player’s age. Pitch Smart, a Major League Baseball and USA Baseball initiative, provides guidelines to help avoid overuse.
  • Players should avoid pitching on consecutive days and multiple teams with overlapping seasons.

Appropriate Equipment

  • Equipment should fit properly and be worn correctly.
  • Wear a batting helmet with a protective face shield at the plate, in the “on deck” circle and while running bases.
  • Position-specific equipment should be used, such as a specialized mitt, helmet, face mask, throat guard, long-model chest protector, protective supporter and shin guards for players in the Catcher’s position.
  • Players should always wear cleats with a snug heel, roomy toe box, good traction, flexibility in the sole, and plenty of ankle support and coverage. It is also essential to break in a new pair of cleats before wearing them during a game and check to ensure they breathe properly to discourage bacteria and fungus growth.
  • Gender-specific equipment may be of value, including athletic supports for boys/men and padded bras for girls/women.

Safe Environment:

  • Inspect the playing field for uneven terrain, holes and divots, as well as glass and other debris.
  • Use a field with breakaway bases to minimize the risk of injury when sliding into bases. The traditional stationary base is a rigid obstacle for an athlete to encounter while sliding. In contrast, a breakaway base is snapped onto grommets attached to an anchored rubber mat, which holds it in place during regular play but will dislodge when slid into.
  • Assess weather conditions and be prepared to delay/cancel the game, especially in extremely hot weather or thunderstorms with lightning.

Seeking Care:

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s tips indicates that many injuries can be treated with active rest from sports participation until primary symptoms subside. The AOSSM further outlines the following considerations:

  • Active rest should include activities to address flexibility, strength, balance and form to begin successfully playing again.
  • When applying ice to an injured area to decrease pain or swelling, use crushed ice in a bag for 20 minutes as often as every 2 hours.
  • If symptoms persist, and for any injury involving pain, swelling, dysfunction, loss of sensation, uncontrolled bleeding, or concussion-related symptoms, the player should visit a trained sports medicine physician for evaluation.

For those seeking treatment by Dr. Josh Hackel, players can expect a detailed exam during the initial consultation. For many patients, this includes using in-office musculoskeletal ultrasound images to assess the area of concern. As one of the first sports medicine physicians in the region to utilize ultrasound technology, Dr. Hackel is not only a sought-after clinician but an instructor as well. He teaches an annual course in partnership with the Andrews Research & Education Foundation for other physicians from around the country. To learn more about using this technology, watch Dr. Hackel’s recent webinar MSK Ultrasound in Baseball in partnership with the. A login account is required to view the recording.

Dr. Hackel is dedicated to providing his patients with state-of-the-art procedures to address their pain and help them heal. If you have sustained a baseball-related injury or suffer from chronic shoulder pain, contact our office at 850.916.8783 or use our convenient online appointment form to schedule an initial consultation with our office.

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