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Prep Sports: Bats, Balls, and Chiropractic

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Paul Rothbart

Bats, Balls, and Chiropractic

It’s the national pastime. Even though football and basketball have surpassed it on the list of the most popular sports in America, baseball is still a beloved spectator and participation sport. Millions of prep athletes -- boys and girls alike -- take to the diamond each spring to try to outhit, out-pitch, and out play their high school opponents. From tee ball onward, bats and balls take residence in our cultural psyche, and there’s not a Little Leaguer alive (or a parent) who doesn’t imagine playing in Williamsport at the Little League World Series.

Technically, baseball and softball are non-contact sports. However, they can take as great a toll on the body as any other sport, and injuries are not uncommon. Baseball and softball players perform explosive and repetitive actions such as running, sliding, swinging a bat, and lots of throwing.

What Are Common Injuries for Baseball Players?

One of the most common baseball injuries is a hamstring strain. This is due to the sudden starts and stops players make on both offense and defense. “Batter’s shoulder” is a labral tear in the back of the shoulder joint that happens because of the force on the bottom hand of the bat during a swing.

Another sports injury experienced by many baseball players is an ankle sprain. It’s all too easy to roll an ankle when rounding a base. Bruises are other frequent injuries that can occur when being struck with the ball, and friction burns -- commonly referred to as raspberries -- are caused by diving and sliding. I once sprained my wrist in a game in high school when I ran into the centerfield fence chasing a long fly ball. And no, I didn’t catch it.

What Are Common Injuries for Softball Players?

Because softball is a similar sport to baseball, its players are prone to many of the same injuries. Overuse injuries are common in both sports because of the repetitive motions of swinging a bat and throwing a ball. The underhand motion of a softball pitch is not nearly as hard on a young athlete as overhand tosses, but overuse can still be a problem.

What Are Some Common Throwing Injuries for Baseball Players?

The most common type of injuries are throwing injuries. Every player with the exception of the designated hitter has to make throws while playing their position. The rotator cuff tendons are especially vulnerable and many players, especially pitchers experience strains and tears that require surgery. SLAP tears, (superior labrum anterior to posterior) are common, as is shoulder instability. These injuries are painful and can take considerable time to heal. They may permanently and significantly reduce throwing velocity.

The elbow also experiences high stress from the constant throwing by baseball players. “Thrower’s elbow” is a general term for several types of injury, including a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). It can also be applied to ulnar neuritis, an irritation of the ulnar nerve.

How Can High School Athletes Benefit From Chiropractic Care?

Sports medicine is essential for treating and preventing injuries to baseball and softball players as well as other high school athletes. Chiropractic care can be a very helpful form of treatment and prevention.

Every Major League Baseball team has a chiropractor on its medical staff. “These players put a ton of demand on their bodies getting through a 162-game season,” says Dr. Curt Rindall, chiropractor to the Seattle Mariners. If chiropractic can help major leaguers, it can certainly benefit high school athletes.

Making adjustments to properly align the spine and joints is what chiropractors do best. Subluxations can cause pain, limit range of motion, and keep players off the field. Chiropractic adjustments can help treat injuries and speed the healing process. Pain in one part of the body is often caused by a problem in another. Dr. Rindal says it is “important … to evaluate the whole area, not just the area of complaint.”

Can Chiropractic Care Improve the Performance of Baseball Players?

In addition to the treatment of injuries, chiropractic care may improve the performance of baseball and softball players. When the spine and joints are in proper alignment, they are able to function through their full range of motion. This enables players to perform optimally, with explosive bursts of speed and power to play their best game.

Subluxations in the spine can put pressure on the spinal nerves. A chiropractic adjustment relieves that pressure and may improve nervous system response. Faster reflexes could be the difference in snaring a line drive over the head or having it fly past for a hit.

Many chiropractic patients find that they sleep better when having regular treatments. Sleep is essential for all young people and can help teen athletes perform at their best.

Useful Tips to Aid the Health of Baseball Players

Playing an entire season, inning after inning, of baseball or softball can be hard on a young athletes health. There are things you can do to help protect yourself while you compete.

Warm up - Warming up is essential to every kind of physical activity and baseball is no exception. Before every practice and game, do some stretching and light calisthenics or jogging to get the blood flowing and the muscles ready for action. Don’t neglect throwing. Pair up with a teammate and play an easy game of catch to get your arm loose. You can save yourself a lot of pain by doing so.

Strength training - You don’t have to be a powerlifter to be a good baseball player but a strong body is less likely to be injured. Do some strength training in the offseason. You can use light weights and high reps 2-3 times per week. It will help prevent injury and just might boost your performance.

Eat well - Without proper nutrition, you won’t have the energy necessary to play well for a full game and you could be more vulnerable to injuries. Stay away from sweets and empty calories. Instead, eat a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein, and whole grains. With the proper fuel, you can go the distance and reduce the risk of injury.

Hydrate - Cramps, dizziness, and muscle injuries can result from dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids before and during games. Water is the best thing you can drink. Some sports drinks are beneficial but read labels because many are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients.

Sleep well - Sleep is when your body regenerates and heals itself. A young athlete needs 8-9 hours of solid sleep every night to perform optimally. Good sleep will also reduce the risk of injury and improve health.

Take cues from your body - Your body will tell you what it needs. Listen to it. This doesn’t just apply to eating, drinking, and sleeping. If you’re feeling gassed or your arm is sore (pitchers, we’re looking at you), don’t try to be a hero. Come out of the game and avoid hurting yourself. That’s why teams have relievers.

Baseball is the grand old game and many prep athletes participate every spring. Like any other sport, baseball and softball can be tough on a young body and players must be careful to avoid injury.

Seeing a chiropractor regularly may help boost performance as well as treat and help prevent injuries. The Joint Chiropractic has clinics all over the country. Appointments aren’t necessary, so take your budding superstar to a nearby location and find out how chiropractic can help keep them from striking out in the game of health.

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