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Common Injuries in Baseball and Softball

Young boy pitching the ball in a baseball game

Throwing Injuries 

While baseball and softball are beloved sports, they come with their fair share of risks, especially when it comes to throwing. Whether you’re a pitcher, outfielder, or infielder, the repetitive and high-impact nature of throwing can lead to various injuries. In this blog, we’ll explore three common throwing injuries: dislocations, fractures, and sprains, and discuss their causes, symptoms, and treatment options to keep you in the game and off the bench.

Preventing Throwing Injuries 

For children aspiring to pitch at higher levels, it’s crucial to emphasize self-awareness. Not ignoring pain or fatigue, even if it means taking a few month’s break, can be more beneficial in the long run than pushing through. Understanding the risks associated with overuse injuries in young athletes is crucial for parents and coaches alike in preventing overuse injuries. Implementing the right strategies, focusing on overall strength and mechanics, and allowing adequate rest can significantly reduce the risk of these injuries. By fostering a balanced approach to sports and emphasizing individual well-being over pushing performance boundaries, parents and coaches can contribute significantly to the long-term health and success of young athletes. Tailoring this advice to different sports and ensuring a balance between dedication and caution is vital. Taking care of the young athlete’s physical health today ensures they can enjoy their sport for years to come.

Overuse Injuries 

Overuse injuries are most common in baseball and softball, affecting players of all ages, but are particularly prevalent in young athletes due to the repetitive nature of throwing. One of the most well-known overuse injuries is Little League elbow, an injury impacting the bone and growth center around the elbow. This injury occurs due to the stress placed on the elbow from repetitive pitching, potentially leading to damage or tearing of the collateral ligament, commonly referred to as the Tommy John elbow. Overhand throwing, a fundamental skill in baseball and softball, places extreme stress on the shoulders of young athletes, particularly on the ligaments that stabilize the shoulder in its socket. The repetitive nature of these high-stress movements can lead to various shoulder-throwing injuries, including SLAP tears, bicep tendonitis, internal impingement, shoulder instability, and scapular dysfunction. These injuries are often caused by a lack of rest and improper conditioning, as young athletes, pressured by the desire for success and scholarships, may overwork their bodies without allowing adequate time for recovery or conditioning. It’s essential for parents, coaches, and young athletes to understand the risks associated with overuse injuries and to prioritize rest, proper conditioning, and overall well-being to prevent these injuries and ensure long-term athletic success.

Preventing Overuse Injuries


A combined approach involving physical examination, medical history, imaging tests, and sometimes specialized assessments is used to accurately diagnose an overuse injury in pediatric patients. Addressing these injuries involves a multifaceted approach. Rest, anti-inflammatories, and compression can alleviate pain, but the body requires time to heal. Overuse therapy encompasses physical therapy, playing a pivotal role in both recovery and the prevention of future injuries. It identifies weaknesses, particularly around the shoulder, that might impact the elbow. Physical therapy often includes stretching exercises. A gradual return to activity after complete recovery, ensuring adequate rest (at least two days off per week), and listening to the body by avoiding throwing with pain are crucial steps toward a safe return to play. Parents and coaches play essential roles in injury prevention. Encouraging a gradual increase in activity levels, implementing stretching routines, and ensuring adequate rest are vital. Coaches need to monitor and correct throwing mechanics to reduce strain on the elbow. It is advised to limit specialization to a single sport, advocating for multi-sport participation before the age of 12. This not only prevents overuse injuries but also enhances overall sports performance. Overuse therapy in physical therapy for a young baseball player typically involves a multifaceted approach, including:

  • Strengthening: Focused exercises to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and elbow while improving flexibility to ensure better stability and support for the joints.
  • Technique Refinement: Correcting improper throwing techniques to minimize stress on the elbow and shoulder joints during the throwing motion.
  • Gradual Return to Activity: A structured program to gradually reintroduce throwing activities, ensuring the player returns to the sport at an appropriate pace without risking reinjury.
  • Education: Teach the player about proper warm-up routines, post-activity stretching, and the importance of listening to their body to prevent overuse.
  • Monitoring and Adjustments: Regularly monitor progress and adjustments to the therapy program as needed to address any ongoing issues or concerns.

At The Pediatric Orthopedic Center, we advise parents that their children should avoid playing a single sport year-round until they reach high school age when their growth plates have matured. This ensures they (and their joints) get adequate rest throughout the year. Strength training and proper warm-up before starting any athletic activity are key to preventing injury. Equally important are a cool-down period following play, and scheduling at least one rest day a week in their athletic calendar. If a student-athlete notices pain with repetitive activity or if the pain is negatively impacting his or her sports performance, it is important to address this early on to prevent further injury. For the coaches reading this, remember that children want to be team players and show up for the team even if they are experiencing pain. It is important to build a relationship of trust with student-athletes so they are comfortable speaking up regarding any pain they are experiencing. Encourage children to also share other activities they’re engaged in, so you can be aware of the heightened potential for injury. 

Other Types Of Injuries 


In pediatric baseball, injuries are a concern for both overuse and acute incidents. While overuse injuries, particularly to the shoulder and elbow from repetitive throwing, are well-documented, acute injuries like ankle sprains can also occur. Unlike overuse injuries that develop gradually from repetitive stress, ankle injuries often result from sudden twists, turns, or collisions during play. Overuse throwing injuries, such as Little League elbow and shoulder, can lead to chronic pain and impaired performance, while ankle injuries like sprains can cause immediate pain and swelling, potentially sidelining players temporarily. Preventive measures such as proper warm-up, conditioning, and technique training are crucial to mitigate the risk of both types of injuries. Additionally, using protective gear like ankle braces and adhering to safety guidelines during play can help reduce the likelihood of ankle injuries, while also addressing overuse concerns through rest and structured training programs.

In addition to ankle injuries, thumb sprains are another acute concern in pediatric baseball. A thumb sprain occurs when the ligaments supporting the base of the thumb are stretched or torn, typically from a forceful bending of the thumb backward or to the side. Commonly seen in athletes who engage in activities involving catching and throwing, such as baseball players, these injuries often result from falls onto outstretched hands during gameplay. While not as frequent as overuse throwing injuries or ankle sprains, thumb sprains can still sideline players and require proper management to ensure full recovery. Protective measures such as wearing gloves and employing proper catching techniques can help reduce the risk of thumb sprains, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive injury prevention strategies in youth baseball.

Injuries More Common In Males Vs Females 


In pediatric baseball, injury rates can vary between females and males, with certain injuries more commonly affecting one gender over the other. While some injuries, such as overuse throwing injuries and ankle sprains, occur relatively evenly across genders, others may show differences:

  • Knee Injuries: Research suggests that females may be more prone to certain knee injuries like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears compared to males. This difference is often attributed to anatomical, hormonal, and biomechanical factors.
  • Thumb Injuries: While thumb sprains can occur in both genders, certain activities and sports may predispose females to a higher risk of thumb injuries due to differences in participation rates and playing styles.
  • Shoulder Injuries: While overuse shoulder injuries like Little League shoulder are common in both genders, specific types or patterns of shoulder injuries may vary between males and females due to differences in anatomy, muscle strength, and throwing mechanics.

Understanding these gender-specific injury patterns can help in developing targeted injury prevention strategies tailored to the unique needs of both female and male pediatric baseball players. However, it’s essential to note that individual factors such as playing style, conditioning, and technique also play significant roles in injury risk, regardless of gender.

When To See The Pediatric Orthopedic Center 

The pediatric orthopedists at The Pediatric Orthopedic Center treat young athletes of all ages. Our orthopedic surgeons are all trained in the latest arthroscopic techniques and open shoulder procedures to repair shoulder injuries, other joint injuries, and bone fractures. Our treatment goal is to help kids heal as quickly and as completely as possible.

If you suspect your child might have symptoms of an overuse sports injury, contact The Pediatric Orthopedic Center at (973) 538-7700 or by filling out the request an appointment form.

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Urgent Care for Acute Injuries (Cedar Knolls)

Walk-In Hours Update

*Urgent and Acute Injuries Only during Urgent Care/Walk-in Clinic hours. To find out if your child’s injury qualifies for a walk-in visit, click here. (Walk-in fees may apply.)

Monday:

Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm

Tuesday:

Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm

Wednesday:

Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm

Thursday:

Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm

Friday:

Regular Hours: 8am-5pm
NO walk-in hours.

Saturday:

Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 10am-2pm

Sunday: Closed

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