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Stay on the Baseball field and out of the operating room…

As the high school baseball season comes to an end, many baseball players are experiencing the aches and pains and the “normal” shoulder/arm soreness that comes with a long season. In the past, baseball players were able to enjoy 5-7 months off from baseball activity to allow the proper healing and rest that the young athlete needs. However, the sport has evolved into a year- long season with high school baseball starting in January and ending in May, summer ball kicking up and running until late July, and fall baseball starting up as soon as school starts in August. The competitiveness and necessity of year round baseball has not allowed for the young athlete to completely heal and recover from the demands of a baseball season.

Complaints of shoulder and elbow pain are the most common reasons why a baseball athlete seeks medical attention. According to Dr. James Andrews, “Most injuries are a consequence of cumulative micro-trauma from the repetitive, dynamic overhand throwing motion inherent to the sport.” In other words, the constant repetitive demands put on the shoulder from throwing a baseball without the proper strength, mechanics, and rest are the major cause for injury in a baseball player.

Overthrowing and over utilizing the young athlete has become a huge problem in youth baseball today. Doctors have found a link between throwing volume and shoulder/elbow injuries among youth baseball pitchers and these findings have prompted the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee to recommend pitch limits for youth pitchers. According to the USA Baseball Medical team, not only monitoring pitch counts but having pitchers (1) compete NO MORE than 9 months in a calendar year, (2) develop and maintain good mechanics, (3) commit to year-round physical conditioning as their bodies develop, (4) participate in only 1 performance as a pitcher per day, (5) avoid showcase participation, and (6) limit participation to 1 team per season.

Rehabilitation plays a vital part for the athlete, in not only returning to sport, but injury prevention as well as pre-season training to prepare the body for the demands of their respective sport. Traditional rehabilitation is not sufficient and cannot reproduce the speed or the joint forces generated during throwing. According to Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, “The only way to mimic the forces of a baseball throw is to actually throw a ball. Interval throwing programs are progressive, sport specific regimens that gradually expose an athlete to the demands they will experience upon a return to sport.” If not properly prepared, an athlete is vulnerable to injury upon return to sports participation. This is true whether the athlete has a throwing-arm injury, a non-throwing-arm injury, or an injury to any region of the body that has resulted in lost playing time.

As the spring season wraps up, and the summer baseball season begins, make sure your athlete is prepared for the stresses associated with throwing. If you have had any shoulder/elbow pain fro