According to Doctors from Mayo Clinic, many athletes get injured each year 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 them 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, a proper warm-up is a must. It prepares your body for the upcoming game. In baseball, you can participate in pre-season strength programs that 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
A player has to ensure that they are 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 to injuring other athletes.
#4. Know when to Take Rest
If you or your child is a pitcher, then taking a rest is of utmost importance to avoid injuries. Pitching for an extended period of time without any breaks is the 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 a softball game, players 12 years of age or less should not pitch the 3rd game/practice if they pitched around 80 times in the 1st two days. A maximum of 100 pitches is allowed during a game for kids aged 15 and above. The Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Department sets out these rules at the University of Florida.
Some players are found overtraining and, in turn, burning themselves even before the game. They think that if they spend hours and hours practicing their throw or hit, they will become the best. While a moderate amount of training will 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 put yourself at risk of getting injured and other players at risk.
For instance, as a softball pitcher, you should acquire proper 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 a crucial 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 that contributes to many injuries; with that being said, limit the number of times you slide hands and head first.
#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. See if the walls are padded or not? Are our indoor facilities large enough to avoid injury due to collision? Is there ample lighting in the field?
In addition to the above questions, you should check if the field surface is even 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 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 their players’ safety, 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 an immediate 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 ordinary athlete. This is one of the biggest mistakes that your child can make. Remember – Hiding pain only makes it worse!
If a kid reaches out to you and provides that they are experiencing pain in their arm or leg, advise them to go home and take a rest. If the pain persists, take them to a doctor. As a coach, you must decide when to seek the help of a physician.
Remember, if proper care is not taken promptly, these injuries can result in lifelong disabilities, preventing you from pursuing your dream of becoming a champion player in baseball/softball. By accepting these proactive steps, you will be able to reduce the risk of injuries during baseball and softball.