Now that softball season is in full swing, many players and professional athletes are at risk for developing overuse injuries. Most of these injuries are related to throwing and involve the shoulder or elbow. Here are five of the most common softball overuse injuries, along with how physical therapy is the best way to treat as well as prevent them.
1. Shoulder Tendinitis
The most common type of overuse injury for pitchers is shoulder tendinitis or inflammation of the shoulder tendon. Shoulder tendinitis can also cause pain in the neck, back, or elbow, besides forearm, elbow, and wrist tendinitis. Catchers can suffer, too, from overhead throwing shoulder issues as well as develop knee and back problems.
2. Rotator Cuff Tears
A rotator cuff is a group of muscles that holds together the three shoulder bones, which include the scapula, humerus, and clavicle. Moreover, the rotator cuff enables you to lift and rotate your arm.
Because softball pitchers use intense underhand motions when throwing softballs, the rotator cuff can become strained and stressed, causing significant wear and tear. Failing to reduce or stop this stressful movement can result in a rotator cuff tear (RCT). This can eventually lead to symptoms, including pain, weakness, and affect arm mobility.
3. Neck Pain
Another common softball injury is neck pain. Consider how high-impact throwing can put strain on connective tissue located in the spine’s cervical area. Thus, it’s not hard to understand how pitchers can suffer from neck and upper back pain. Even worse, there are some players who have slipped spinal discs.
4. Elbow Injuries
Neuritis of the elbow—Also known as cubital tunnel syndrome, neuritis of the elbow is a problem in which the ulnar nerve, which is in the arm, becomes irritated or compressed. As a result, you can have symptoms, including numbness, tingling in your little finger or ring finger, besides a weakened grip.
Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is another common elbow injury. This joint condition involves a bone dying that’s underneath the cartilage of a joint because of inadequate blood flow. When the bone and cartilage start to break, it creates pain and can obstruct joint motion.
5. Wrist Problems
Swinging a bat can easily cause wrist discomfort, which can range from mild to severe pain. An example of mild wrist pain is having the wrist wrapped or taped with a bandage and being able to keep playing with minimal pain. The worst-case scenario is a severe sprain, in which several tendons are ruptured.
Ways to Prevent Softball Injuries
The good news is that most softball injuries are preventable. Some of the top prevention measures for avoiding injuries include those, such as:
- Rotating pitchers
- Properly warming up by stretching and throwing programs—Besides stretching before a game, it’s also important to do stretching exercises after playing. This keeps your muscles flexible and reduces muscle soreness.
- Using age-appropriate pitching—A child under the age of 13 should never pitch more than two consecutive games.
- Focusing on good control, accuracy, and proper mechanics
- Not pitching when feeling pain—Stop playing when first noticing shoulder or elbow pain.
How Physical Therapy Can Help to Prevent and Treat Overuse Injuries
Physical therapy is the first line of action for treating softball overuse injuries.
- Specific RCT strengthening exercises—By strengthening the shoulder muscles, you can give stability to your shoulder. Furthermore, strong shoulder muscles not only help in relieving shoulder pain but also can prevent the likelihood of being injured later.
- Stretching exercises—A therapist can show you how to do simple stretches. In some cases, this is all that’s needed in finding relief from pain.
- Laser treatments—Cold laser therapy uses wavelengths for treating strains, sprains, shoulder pain, muscle fatigue, joint and back pain, in addition to other conditions.
- Core strengthening exercises—It’s critical you have a strong core as it’s the core muscles that help in strengthening and stabilizing the pelvis and spine. Pilates exercises are highly effective in providing a solid foundation for other movements.
- Lower extremity (LE) strengthening exercises—Physical therapists recommend exercises for strengthening the lower leg muscles, which include the ankles, calves, and feet.
- Massage therapy—By massaging an injury, blood flow is stimulated. Massaging helps in draining out lactic acid, which promotes blood that carries oxygen, to flow.
To find out more about our wide range of high-quality physical therapy services, contact us at Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation or call 570-208-2787