According to Doctors from Mayo Clinic, each year many athletes get injured while playing baseball and softball. They provide that some of these injuries include ligament damage, twisting of knees, wrist pain, ankle sprain and elbow tendinitis. Such injuries are more common in children between 5 to 14 years of age.
The alarming injury stats in America led researchers and physicians to set some guidelines for athletes especially young players. A few of these precautions are listed below:
#1. Get a Physical Examination
If your child is new to the game and is bound to appear in the upcoming season, please ensure that you take him or her to a doctor who will conduct a physical examination. Such an examination helps in giving information about any possible injury risks that your kid might have. It assists you in prepping beforehand and taking specific measures according to your child’s physical strength.
#2. Never Skip Warm Up Exercises
Whether you are a pitcher or hitter, proper warm up is a must. It prepares your body for the upcoming game. In baseball, you can take part in pre-season strength programs which offer planned flexibility, speed and strength workouts. Luckily, overuse injuries are also taken care of during these sessions. Softball players, on the other hand, can perform moderate full-body warmups before the game.
#3. Use the Right Safety Equipment
It’s a player’s duty to ensure that he/she is fully prepared with suitable equipment before stepping into the field. Both baseball and softball leagues have set out rules and equipment restrictions that all participants should adhere to. Make sure to buy protective gear including gloves, helmet, elbow guard and chest protector. Bats that are declared dangerous by authorities must not be used. Don’t buy shoes with steel spikes as they might contribute in injuring other athletes.
#4. Know when to Take Rest
If you or your child is a pitcher then taking rest is of utmost importance when it comes to avoiding injuries. Pitching for a long period of time without any breaks is primary cause of elbow and wrist injury. You might want to give other sports a try as this will allow you to use other body muscles as well.
As a rule of thumb in softball game, players with 12 years of age or less should not pitch on 3rd game of game/practice if they pitched around 80 times in 1st 2 days. A maximum of 100 pitches are allowed during a game for kids aged 15 and above. These rules are set out by the Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Department at University of Florida.
Some players are found overtraining and in turn burning themselves even before the game. They think that if they will spend hours and hours practicing their throw or hit, they will become the best. While a moderate amount of training will actually be beneficial for you, overtraining will hurt you!
#5. Acquire appropriate skills and techniques
When you don’t develop the right skills and techniques for playing baseball and softball, you not only put yourself at risk of getting injured but you put other players at risk too.
For instance, as a softball pitcher you should acquire correct throwing knowledge and practice is way before hitting the field. In baseball, factors like arm lag and improper sequencing can even injure pro players like Strasberg. Physicians provide that step-by-step arm movements are key factor here. There should be ample shoulder rotation and your arm should be away from the body while pitching in baseball.
Headfirst slides are another common technique which contributes to a large number of injuries. Keeping in view multiple thumb injuries which are reported in last few years, feet-first slide is really the way to go.
#6. Ensure Safer Playing Environment
While you take care of all the aspects associated with yourself and your kid, you need to keep a close eye on the playing environment as well. See if the walls are padded or not? Are indoor facilities large enough to avoid injury due to collision? Is there ample lighting in the field?
In addition to above questions, you should check if the field surface is even and free from debris and holes. Instead of deploying traditional bases, ask your field managers to opt for breakaway bases which snaps and dislodges whenever a player collides into them.
When the weather is hot, associations should allow players to wear light cloths. They should also be given sufficient breaks for hydration. In case of cold and chilly weather, athletes should layer up with additional hats, jackets and socks.
If concerned field managers and coaches aren’t putting in enough effort to ensure safety of their players then they must be reported to their respective departments.
#7. Readily available First Aid Kit
Often, players can avoid injuries by taking quick actions. A first aid kit must always be available at every softball and baseball game. In case of any emergency, teams should have a quick reaction force and a plan in place. Keeping parents in the loop and training them is also very helpful.
#8. Do not Play through Pain
Young softball and baseball players don’t take pain seriously and continue playing like any other normal athlete. This is one of the biggest mistakes that your child can do. Remember – Hiding pain only makes it worse!
If a kid reaches out to you and provides that he or she is experiencing pain in their arm or leg, advise them to go home and take rest. If the pain persists, take them to a doctor. As a coach, it is your duty to decide when to seek the help of a physician.
Remember, if proper care is not taken in a timely manner, these injuries can result in life-long disabilities which can prevent you from pursuing your dream of becoming a champion player in baseball/softball. By taking these pro-active steps, you will be able to reduce the risk of injuries during baseball and softball.