In our last post, we discussed the most common baseball injuries. Today, we’ll talk about what we can do to prevent these injuries. While we may not be able to prevent every instance of injury, we can reduce the likelihood of injury by following the right guidelines.
Coaches, players, and parents should focus on the following safety guidelines.
1. Always warm up and stretch first.
Whether it’s just a practice or it’s a full game, playing with cold muscles puts you at a greater risk of injury. Try jumping jacks or light running, and don’t forget to stretch. Focus on the back, hamstrings, and shoulders when you stretch–tight muscles in these areas are more likely to be injured. Many teams will have a group warm-up routine before the game and practice, but if they don’t, players should warm up on their own.
2. Wear the right equipment.
Players should have properly-fitted baseball shoes with cleats. Batters should wear batting helmets, even while waiting their turn at bat and running bases. Catchers have a high risk of being hit by the baseball, and therefore need several pieces of protective equipment, including a catcher’s mitt, helmet, face mask, throat guard, chest protector, and shin guards. All equipment should fit correctly; ill-fitting gear will not be as effective. For children playing little league baseball, parents can refer to the equipment checklist provided by the official Little League website.
3. Play on a safe field.
The field should be free of debris, and the terrain should be even. Check for holes and divots in the field. Because injuries often occur from sliding into bases, you may want to consider using breakaway bases. A traditional base is very rigid, creating an obstacle for players sliding into the base. A breakaway base will dislodge when a player slides into it, which could reduce the amount of sliding injuries.
4. Work on your technique.
Improper technique can put you at a greater risk of injury. Players should not slide until they have learned the correct technique. Skills should also be taught at an age-appropriate level–players under the age of 10 should not be allowed to slide. Players should also be taught the “obstruction” rule–do not get in the way of the runner or block the base without possession of the ball. If a pitcher complains of arm pain, it may be a sign that he or she is pitching too much or is not using the correct technique.
5. Set limits to prevent overuse injuries.
Overuse injuries are particularly common in baseball pitchers. Overuse injuries have been on the rise in children, mainly due to the fact that many children are “specializing” in one sport. To prevent overuse injuries, parents should not allow children to play one sport year-round. If the child only wants to participate in baseball, parents should make sure there are breaks between seasons. Pitchers should not play on multiple teams with overlapping seasons. Young pitchers should also not be allowed to pitch on consecutive days, and parents should limit a child’s amount of pitches per game.
If coaches, players, and parents work together, baseball injuries can be greatly reduced. Do what you can to reduce the chance of injury, but know how to spot an injury if it does happen.