Common Baseball and Softball Injuries

People Playing Baseball
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Playing baseball or softball, you are running, jumping, throwing, and swinging a bat. This brings the risk of overuse injuries with long hours of practice. You are also at risk of falls and collisions, as well as being hit by the ball.

Baseball and softball injuries are generally defined as either cumulative (overuse) or acute (traumatic) injuries.

  • Overuse injuries occur over time due to stress on the muscles, joints and soft tissues without proper time for healing. They begin as a small, nagging ache or pain, and can grow into a debilitating injury if they aren't treated early.
  • Acute or traumatic injuries occur due to a sudden force, or impact, and can be quite dramatic.

Learn about the most common baseball and softball injuries.

Shoulder

Shoulder overuse injuries are very common, especially for pitchers. In softball, the windmill pitching motion can be especially stressful on the body. For other players, the overhead throwing position can also lead to shoulder problems.

  • Shoulder Tendinitis, Bursitis, and Impingement Syndrome: These overuse injuries are common for young athletes who use overhead throwing.
  • Torn Rotator Cuff: Tears can develop in the rotator cuff tendons.
  • Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis): This is more common in older players, but those with frequent shoulder injuries may also be at risk.
  • Shoulder Separation: This is usually a traumatic injury that happens in a collision or fall with an outstretched hand.
  • Shoulder Instability: Baseball and softball players are prone to this due to their overhead throwing activities. They stretch the shoulder capsule and ligaments. This can lead to loose joints and even dislocation.
  • Glenohumeral Arthritis: This post-traumatic arthritis can occur when the shoulder joint undergoes repeated injuries.

Elbow

Elbow pain is also very common in these sports, especially damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). It stabilizes the elbow during pitching.

  • Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries: While skiers often have traumatic injuries to the UCL during falls, pitchers develop chronic injuries due to pitching action.
  • Little League Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis) Also called golfer's elbow, this overuse injury is caused by the action of the wrist flexors pulling on the inside of the elbow.
  • Bursitis of the Elbow: This inflammation of the joint sac most often occurs after falling on the elbow.
  • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis): This overuse injury is felt on the outside of the elbow and can make it difficult to lift or grasp objects.

Wrist and Hand

Baseball and softball can cause traumatic injuries due to catching, falling, or colliding, in addition to overuse injuries.

  • Wrist Sprains: These can be caused by a fall or impact with the ball or another player.
  • Finger Fractures: These can be caused by impact with the ball or by falls.
  • Wrist tendinitis: This is an overuse injury, often from pitching or throwing.

Back

Catchers can especially be prone to back injury due to their crouched position and overhead throwing. Softball pitchers may also have back strain due to the windmill pitching action.

  • Muscle Strains of the Back
  • Low Back Pain
  • Herniated Disks

Knee

Running and sudden changes in direction can result in acute knee injuries and overuse injuries. Knee pain requires an evaluation and proper diagnosis. Here are common baseball and softball injuries to the knee.

  • Knee Ligament Injuries: Ligament injuries to the knee are very common in sports that require stopping and starting or quickly changing directions. These extreme forces on the knee can result in torn ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL) are the most often injured, but the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) can also be injured. Cruciate ligament injuries don't always cause pain, but typically cause a loud "pop." Most of these injuries are confirmed with an MRI. Arthroscopic surgery is sometimes the best way to find a partial tear.
  • Torn Knee Cartilage and Meniscus Injuries: Torn knee cartilage is usually a torn meniscus. These small, "c" shaped pieces of cartilage act as cushions between the thigh bone (femur) and the tibia (shin bone). There is one on the outside (lateral meniscus) and one on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus). Meniscus tears are often the result of twisting, pivoting, decelerating, or a sudden impact. It can be identified by various manual tests a physician can perform to detect torn cartilage.
  • Chondromalacia: This term refers to softening and deterioration of the underside of the kneecap that results in a dull pain around or under the kneecap that worsens when walking down stairs or hills, climbing stairs, other weight-bearing activity.
  • Knee Tendonitis and Ruptured Tendons: Tendonitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon often caused by overuse. Tendonitis is often identified due to tenderness at the point where the patellar tendon meets the bone, just below the kneecap. Impacts and sudden movements (such as trying to break a fall) can force the quadriceps muscles to contract forcefully and cause the quadriceps tendon to be strained or possible tear (rupture).

Miscellaneous Pain and Injuries

Baseball and softball players can also incur these common injuries.

  • Blisters: Players may get foot blisters from running or hand blisters from the rubbing of the glove or ball.
  • Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): This muscle pain, stiffness, or soreness occurs 24 to 48 hours after particularly intense exercise or a new program.
  • Sprains and Strains: These are acute injuries that vary in severity but usually result in pain, swelling, bruising, and loss of the ability to move and use the joint.
  • Stress Fractures: Stress fractures in the leg are often the result of overuse or repeated impacts on a hard surface.

Preventing Baseball and Softball Injuries

Many sports injuries result from overuse, lack of proper rest, lack of proper warm-ups, or poor conditioning. The following safety precautions are recommended to help prevent help prevent injuries:

  • Warm up thoroughly prior to play.
  • Use good technique and play by the rules.
  • Check the field before play and clean off debris.
  • Have a first aid kit on hand.
  • Get adequate recovery.
  • Stay hydrated.
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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Preventing Baseball Injuries. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/Baseball_Injury_Prevention.aspx.
  • Preventing Softball Injuries. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/Softball_Injury_Prevention.aspx.