This weeks blog is geared towards my people. Softball players, parents, and coaches.
There are all kinds of reports, research, and rules in place to protect baseball pitchers and players, but there is really not much out there for softball. Even though according to one of the articles at the bottom of the page softball players have an equal or even high rate of injury! (1,2)
So this weeks blog is going to tell you or your athletes how to take the needed precautions and work to keep them off the injured list.
How do softball players get hurt?
Throwing and Base running- That's the short answer.
Lower extremity injuries do account for a good chunk of softball injuries, and we will talk about them in the weeks to come.
Upper extremity injuries are the most common injury, specifically shoulders. This doesn't significantly change if you're a position player or a pitcher. (2)
When do softball players get hurt?
This actually surprised me. According to a study done in 2015 that looked at select softball players during their summer seasons, most injuries occurred in the first 2 tournaments! There is so much out there saying that overuse injuries are so common (and they are!) that I just assumed injuries would be most likely towards the end of a season. (1)
That tells me 2 things: 1- Girls are not taking good care of their arms in the off-season and then in the first 2 weeks they hurt themselves because they weren't ready for that much activity (Think someone deciding to run a marathon, so the next day they tried to run a marathon without training for months. Ouch). 2- The first two weeks of practice are so focused on game play that arm health is ignored.
I played travel ball, the only time we had select practice was on weekends and they often lasted 4-6 hours, and you went 100% the whole time. Not once did we stop to do exercises, stretches, basic mechanics. We had to do that on our own time, so I will show you what to be doing on your own time!
What can you do?
#1 - Be ready.
You can not go to your first few tournaments, play 9 games in a weekend, and expect your arm is just going to be fine. Put in the work before hand. Make sure your arm is in tournament shape.
Throw often. You don't have to throw at game speed everyday- in fact you shouldn't throw at 100% everyday- but do something. Long toss, mechanics, or take ground balls/fly balls with someone to catch into. Just don't show up at the beginning of the season (especially if you haven't been doing anything during quarantine) and expect it to go well!
#2 - Keep your shoulder blades mobile
One of the things that causes shoulder pain is called impingement, this happens with shoulder muscles and tendons gets pinched by your upper arm bone and your shoulder blade. It is common for shoulder blades to begin to lack mobility which makes this type of injury more common. Here's my favorite exercise to add:
Wall Angels: Sit with you back against the wall. Sit up tall and get your shoulder blades against the wall. Slide your arms up trying to keep as much of your arms and shoulder blades against the wall as possible, return.
#3 - Keep your shoulders strong
Shoulders are meant to be a mobile joint. Lots of mobility without stability can lead to pain and injury. Here's 2 of my favorite shoulder strengthening exercises to try add:
No Money (I have no idea why it's called this) - Hold a resistance band in both hands, hands face up. Keep your elbows pinned to your side and pull the band apart. You should feel your shoulder blades pinch together.
I's, Y's, and T's - Take that same resistance band and step on one end. Hold the other end with your thumb up towards the sky. Lift up once with your arm at your side, then at a 45 degree angle, then in front of you. GO SLOW UP AND GO SLOW DOWN.
Thanks for reading!! Hope you're all back to playing ball!
Kelley Hale, PT, DPT
Like what you learned? Read the first blog of the baseball softball series HERE!
Smith, Matthew V., et al. "Prospective player-reported injuries in female youth fast-pitch softball players."Sports health7.6 (2015): 497-503.
Shanley, Ellen, et al. "Incidence of injuries in high school softball and baseball players." (2011): 648-654.