Throwing injuries that cause shoulder and elbow pain are common among baseball and softball players due to overuse, limitations in strength and mobility, and poor throwing mechanics. According to a 2013 publication, 20-30% of youth baseball players aged 8-12 experience elbow pain while 45% of 13-14-year-old players report elbow pain. Given this data, it is important to identify modifiable risk factors for throwing-related injuries so that underlying impairments can be addressed.
According to Pitch Smart, overuse and pitching through fatigue are by far the most significant factors related to throwing injury. When compared to non-injured teammates, players who pitched through fatigue were 36 times more likely to require elbow or shoulder surgery. Additionally, studies have suggested that resting from throwing at least 3 months per year can be beneficial in avoiding throwing-related injury. Playing multiple sports also appears to decrease throwing-related injury risk. College baseball players who reported specializing in baseball before age 13 were found to have significantly higher rates of injury compared to those who played multiple sports.
Throwing-related injuries often occur early in the season which may be due to poor off-season preparation for throwing. Players often increase their amount of throwing significantly at the beginning of the season rather than gradually increasing their volume. An evidence-based throwing progression may allow the athlete’s body to adapt to the stresses of throwing slowly over time and reduce injury risk.
A recent study found that decreased internal rotation range of motion and decreased combined total shoulder internal and external range of motion were significant risk factors for throwing-related injury.
Additional risk factors that are likely to increase injury risk are a lack of overhead shoulder mobility which may be the result of muscular tightness, limited shoulder joint mobility, or decreased thoracic spine mobility. Lastly, the shoulder joint is inherently extremely mobile due to its ball and socket design. The shoulder relies heavily on the 4 muscles of the rotator cuff along with the muscles around the shoulder blade to provide stability throughout the range of motion. When the rotator cuff or scapular stabilizers are weak, shoulder function is decreased which can lead to increased risk of injury and decreased throwing performance.
The presence of the above risk factors should serve as a “check engine light” for baseball and softball players. Sports and More Physical Therapy located at Baseball Rebellion in Durham is now offering arm care screening to keep baseball players healthy and performing at a high level. Call 919-745-8879 now to schedule your appointment!