America’s pastime is just one of many activities where athletes can experience varying levels of discomfort from a sport-related injury. What makes baseball so recognizable is the requirement of all on-field players to throw the ball in play to one another for the game to progress. This action is crucial to the sport and is performed during 100% of plays throughout the game.
Throwing a Baseball
Throwing a baseball may be a natural motion but strenuous repetition can pose a threat to a player’s health. While virtually any player on the field is at risk, a pitcher is most susceptible to throwing injuries due to their position responsibilities – after all, a ball cannot be hit into play without a player tossing a pitch down the plate. Proper care can help prolong a pitcher’s career and throwing arm, but a serious injury could restrict their playing time and long-term health. Most throwing injuries are easily treatable however, and often only require rehabilitative attention from a physical therapist. To learn how to stay healthy and recognize injuries before they worsen, here are the most common baseball throwing injuries an athlete may experience.
Valgus Extension Overload
Throwing a baseball causes the bones in the elbow to twist and come into contact with one another. The repeated pressure eventually wears down the cartilage and causes swelling to occur in the joint. This condition is referred to as Valgus Extension Overload (VEO) or more commonly as “Pitcher’s Elbow.” Pain develops due to the bone-on-bone exposure and can restrict the full extension of the elbow. Signs of VEO are apparent when a player’s throwing velocity significantly decreases at the same time chronic pain is present in the arm.
Tendonitis is one of the most common overuse injuries in baseball. The motion of throwing puts a large amount of pressure on the elbow. This pressure is translated from the force of the motion directly onto the flexor tendons. Irritation and inflation can result from throwing too much and too often, so remember to abide by your pitch count to avoid future discomfort.
Ulnar Collateral Ligament
The Ulnar Collateral Ligament, or UCL, is the most frequently injured ligament in baseball. The UCL helps provide the elbow stability for the motion of throwing and often occurs from excessive use. Players have been noted to come back throwing harder and stronger than ever post-surgery and rehabilitation. This injury is most commonly known as a “Tommy John” injury and often fixed via “Tommy John Surgery”. The name and phrase comes from the first baseball player to ever undergo a UCL repair.
The shoulder is also at risk to become injured for pitchers and other players on the baseball field. Shoulder instability is often described as a “dead arm” and is caused from overuse and predispositions. The shoulder joint allows for a great amount of motion, however, overuse of the shoulder can cause the supporting structures of the joint to loosen. This loosening of the joint can lead to the head of the upper arm bone moving out of the socket, which is known as a subluxation, partial slipping, or dislocation, fully slipping out of socket. Shoulder instability should be treated early on with physical therapy and activity modification, as ignoring signs and symptoms can lead to overstretched or torn ligaments which will then require surgery.
Oblique Muscle Strains
The upper extremities are not exclusive to receiving various baseball throwing injuries. Other areas of a pitcher’s body, like the oblique muscles, can be affected during baseball activities as well. Throwing a baseball correctly requires the coordination of the entire body. Oblique muscle strains occur when the body must perform sharp movements with the hips while in the throwing motion. These rotations contort the body and eventually, from overuse, a muscle can tweak or give out.
Rotator Cuff Complications
The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles that permit movement of the shoulder. The overhead throwing motion with the arm can cause a compression of the tendons as they pass through the shoulder joint. This condition commonly transforms into tendonitis and causes more swelling and irritation. Severe conditions can lead to total shoulder dislocation and long-term rest periods.
Sports Rehabilitation Specialists in New Jersey
Throwing injuries in baseball can be easily avoided when an athlete uses the correct throwing motions and utilizes frequent intervals of rest. Injuries can happen by chance but often occur from overuse and neglecting signs of pre-existing pain. If you experience any sport-related injury and need immediate attention, contact the orthopedic and sports medicine specialists at your local JAG-ONE Physical Therapy facility. We’ll create a custom approach for your injury diagnosis and apply the most effective route of treatment. Your rehabilitation is our priority! Visit our blog or give us a call at 973-669-0078 to learn more about JAG-ONE Physical Therapy and our services.