Written by Margot Carmichael Lester for UNC Health Care
It’s not just the big-leaguers who are back in action. Baseball players of all ages are taking the field. Coming back from the off-season, or transitioning into spring ball without one, can make kids prone to injuries.
“The most common injuries are from overuse – throwing and repetitive overhead activities,” says Alex Creighton, M.D., clinical assistant professor of orthopaedics at UNC Health Care. And he should know. Creighton was an all-conference third baseman for the College of William & Mary Tribe. He also worked with the Chicago White Sox during his sports medicine/shoulder fellowship at the Windy City’s Rush University Medical Center.
Young diamond dwellers are more prone to injury because they’re still growing. Pitchers, catchers and short stops tend to get hurt more because they throw significantly more than other positions.
“Certain areas, like their growth plates, are more at risk from repetitive activities,” Creighton says. The growth plate is an area of developing tissue near the ends of long bones, like those in our arms and legs, and is ultimately responsible for the length and shape of our bones. “Because of this, it’s a little more fragile and susceptible to injury, especially in the shoulder due to the amount of strain it sees in the throwing motion.”
Here are some tips for keeping your child off the DL:
Call a Time Out: The best way to avoid injuries is to make sure your child takes a break from the action. “They need to rest for about six to 12 weeks a year, particularly pitchers,” Creighton says. “Any time off is better then none, but it would be better if it were a consecutive time period.”
Be a Smart Manager: During the season, keep your ballplayer in good shape by limiting him or her to one team per season, managing pitch counts, and restricting the use of curveballs and sliders until older.
Create a Pre-Game Ritual: Adults know the value of warming up, but it’s important for kids, too. “Warming up for 10 minutes ensures that muscles, ligaments and tendons are ready to perform,” Creighton says. At least 10 minutes of stretching, running and tossing will get your slugger ready for competition and less likely to sustain an injury. “Also, it’s important to cool down, particularly for a pitcher, with light jogging and ice to the shoulder area for about 10 minutes after a pitching outing.”
Think Like a Trainer: Despite our best efforts, kids can still get hurt. “As long as there was not one event where they felt a ‘pop’ or traumatic event, the best treatment is cessation of activity, rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen,” Creighton says. Remember R-I-C-E: rest, ice, compression, elevation.
Consult the Team Physician: In case of serious injury, get medical help immediately. Otherwise, your slugger won’t need to see a doctor unless the symptoms don’t improve after a week or two of rest and modified activity.
Following this game plan will increase the odds that your child will be injury-free and ready to step into the batter’s box all season long.