If you’re a baseball player, you probably know what the infamous Tommy John surgery is! Tommy John surgery, or TJS, is a procedure involving replacement of the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow: usually with a tendon taken from the patient’s own body (or from a donor). It’s a surgery most commonly performed on baseball players – thanks to the damage done to the ulnar ligament.
Baseball is one of the most popular games in America, and also one of the main causes of injuries. Who can forget the media coverage of Jason Kendall’s gruesome injury in 1999 – in which he tore almost every ligament and tendon in his ankle?
Of course, we’re not about to stop playing baseball any time soon – but it helps to be aware of the most common baseball injuries, just in case!
Rotator Cuff Injuries: Overhead throwing is a major cause of damage to the group of four muscles in your shoulder. Repetitive throwing movements in baseball can lead to compression of the tendons in the shoulder joint, leading to severe pain. Rotator cuff injuries can eventually lead to tendonitis, which is severely debilitating to a player’s game. A rotator cuff specialist is able to properly assess the damage done and prescribe the right next steps to keep a baseball player’s shoulder healthy for another season.
Muscle Strain: Rotating the body sharply and suddenly – several times throughout a game – is a typical cause of muscle strain. Even at a young age, baseball pitchers can suffer from oblique muscle strains, which may unfortunately end their careers.
Labral Tear: Tearing the ring of fibrocartilage surrounding the shoulder socket can occur in baseball pitching as well as catching. It’s described as a sudden, clicking sensation in the shoulder joint. The result is a loosening of the shoulder joint as the fibrocartilage tears away from the bone. The entire shoulder joint can then become unstable.
Impingement Syndrome: Also known ‘thrower’s shoulder’ or ‘swimmer’s shoulder’, this injury occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become irritated and inflamed in the area where they through the shoulder. Baseballers will suffer shoulder pain which gets worse over time.
Shoulder Instability: Pitchers are particularly susceptible to shoulder instability, or what is otherwise known as ‘dead arm’. This is a common symptom of overuse, caused by fatigued muscles. The result is that the shoulder joint may become loose and unstable, as the muscles are no longer able to support its operation. In the worst-case scenario, shoulder instability can result in painful subluxation, which may require many months’ out of the game.
Medial Elbow Ligament Sprain: The elbow is another joint vulnerable to baseball injuries. The ligament in the inner elbow helps to maintain stability in the joint. Impact injuries from repetitive overuse such as throwing or catching can cause damage to this ligament, resulting in pain and/or loss of mobility.
While these are just a handful of the most common baseball injuries, they sure make for painful reading. However, immediate treatment for an injury can speed recovery time and restrict long-term damage. That means RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and a period of rest. Your best bet is to be prepared and if you are experience substantial pain, see an orthopedic specialist for a proper assessment.