When most people think about sports injuries, they think about damage to the legs, feet, head and more. Each type of sport however, is subject to its own unique types of injuries that are a result of the kind of physical activity being performed. In the case of baseball, players are still subject to injuries to the legs and feet as a result of jumping, sliding, running and more. But, elbow and shoulder baseball injuries can also be common as a result of extreme intensity throwing and repeated use.
There are two types of elbow and shoulder baseball injuries in baseball players – trauma or sudden acute injury as a result of impact either externally or internally; or, a repetitive strain injury that is due to the repetitive motions associated with throwing or pitching. Most of the time, baseball injuries that affect the elbows and shoulders are the latter type and caused from frequent and repetitive use. This information is useful because physiotherapy treatment for injuries from overuse is often different for those associated with impact or trauma. Ten more facts about the treatment of baseball injuries to the joints in the arm follow that can be valuable information in terms of reducing healing and recovery time and preventing re-injury, too!
10 Facts About Elbow And Shoulder Baseball Injuries Treatment
- Use Directly Correlates with Risk: “Overuse” can be a challenging word to define, especially since every athlete is different. However, the rate of throwing injuries related to overuse as is seen in baseball players is intimately linked to the number of pitches a person has thrown and how many innings they play in consecutively. The risk is furthered when players resume playing following baseball injuries where residual pain exists and treatment may not be fully complete.
- Injury Risk Depends on the Individual: All baseball players are at an increased risk for the development of an overuse related elbow or shoulder injury. However, those that are taller or heavier than others are at an even greater risk. Additionally, in terms of pitchers, those who throw faster than others are also at a greater risk for shoulder baseball injuries. In terms of treatment, understanding these risks can help to reduce the risk of reinjury once healing is complete.
- Anti Inflammatories are Temporary Help: Over the counter medications that help relieve pain and inflammation are useful for everything from a headache to a hamstring injury, however they are only indicated for temporary use. Prolonged use of these types of medications can lead to damage to the gastrointestinal tract as well as other problems. If joint and muscle pain related to an injury persists longer than seems normal, further medical evaluation is in order so that underlying problems can be identified in baseball injuries that are slow to heal.
- Treatment May Depend on How Arm is Being Used: Although overuse is traditionally responsible for a large majority of elbow and shoulder baseball injuries that affect the arm, improper use may also play a role in everything from a rotator cuff injury to flexor tendonitis. In some cases, evaluating the position of use can be an important part of treatment. Positional changes that redirect strain can also be useful in the case of baseball injuries that create too much stress on one joint or another.
- Recovery Time Can Be Lengthily: On average, treatment and recovery time for elbow and shoulder baseball injuries can last between six and nine weeks with proper care. Serious injuries can require even longer periods lasting of up to twelve weeks. In the case of baseball injuries that require surgery, a treatment and recovery time can last between six and nine months. Following this period, additional time is needed for reconditioning and strengthening the affected area. For players, a serious injury requiring surgical repair can take over one year.
- Surgery May be the Only Treatment: For some injured players, no amount of physical therapy ever fully restores their injured arm or elbow. In these people, surgery may be the only available option in order to allow for a return to regular play. It’s worth noting that surgery may also be required in the case of certain types of shoulder baseball injuries that simply cannot heal on their own. For instance, shoulder pain relief may be possible through medicine and exercise following a torn rotator cuff, but the condition will never be remedied fully until surgery has been performed. This is also the case for many ligament tears in the elbow, most of which require surgical reconstruction for treatment.
- But, Non Surgical Relief and Treatment is Possible: Recent medical advancements have made treating sports related injuries much simpler, more efficient and more effective. Surprisingly, alternative medicine may be one field in which this is the most abundantly evident. The benefits of cryotherapy for instance, including pain and inflammation relief, have long been a staple of treatment for baseball injuries and those incurred in other sports. Whole body cryotherapy is thought to help speed recovery time, reduce injury healing time and reduce pain and inflammation, an outcome recently praised by Tony Robbins during a podcast.
- Early Detection is Imperative: For both elbow and shoulder baseball injuries, the sooner that a suspected injury or potential injury is identified, the easier that it is to treat. Not only will identifying symptoms early help reduce the risk of further injury, but it also can reduce the amount of time needed for recovery as well as reduce the chances of invasive treatments like surgery being required.
- Athletes Get Used to Discomfort: Unfortunately over time, baseball players and other athletes tend to get used to various aches and pains associated with playing their sport of choice. The problem with this is that ignoring or brushing off the problem can mean that injuries can worsen and required treatment becomes much more prolonged or intense. This is also seen in cases where movement is limited due to overuse or injury, in which case athletes compensate for the limited movement by changing positions or style instead of treating the underlying injury.
- Bones May Be Involved: Although the vast majority of elbow and shoulder baseball injuries relate to soft tissue such as muscles, tendons and ligaments, there is one common problem that can lead to both shoulder and elbow injuries that often goes unnoticed. Bone spurs require treatment to prevent them from rubbing and causing friction to surrounding tissues, and without proper imaging to confirm diagnosis, treatment efforts may be futile if bone spurs exist.
Canadian Journal of Surgery. (2017). Management of shoulder injuries in the throwing athlete.