Injuries in Youth Baseball & Softball Players and the Importance of a Training Program
We read many stories today about detrimental injuries to professional athletes, but what about the next generation?
Youth baseball and softball players are suffering more shoulder injuries now than ever before. A study from 2008-2009 analyzing 842,000 high school baseball and softball players throughout the country revealed that the most common injuries were those of the shoulder. 10.4% of those players who suffered from an injured shoulder were softball players while 17.7% were baseball players.
The above chart from the same study reveals the injury rate per 1000 athletes "exposed" throughout their given months of competition. It is very visible that the majority of injuries occurred at the beginning and the end of each respective season.
With most young baseball/softball athletes, even including myself when I participated, training seems to focus on body building and Olympic lifting rather than training sport-specific functional movement. It has been proven that by not participating in a training program that is built around the motions of your specific sport, you actually expose yourself to greater risk of injury. Generic programs often don't train the most important muscle groups for your sport in an adequate way, leading your body to over- or under-compensate and become imbalanced.
A great way to functionally-train baseball and softball players is through variations of medicine ball throws. Whether you are pitching or hitting, the core motion is rotational. Med-ball throws mimic and strengthen that rotational motion, reducing risk of injury and enhancing overall performance.
One risk with year-round play, is that rotational athletes are prone to musculoskeletal imbalances. Specifically, imbalances in hip and shoulder range-of-motions often then lead to soft tissue and cartilage tears. To prevent these type of injuries, try practicing yoga daily. While promoting strength and flexibility, it also is a great way to create awareness of your body–especially in the areas that become imbalanced.
When designing a baseball/softball specific training program, make sure to focus on hamstrings, hip flexors, and shoulders. By targeting these areas with specially-designed exercises and routines, the correct muscle groups will be highlighted, improving overall performance on the field as well as minimizing risk of injury.