Common Baseball and Softball Injuries

People Playing Baseball
David Madison/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

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. Therefore, it is helpful to learn about the most common baseball and softball injuries.

Types of Injuries

Baseball and softball injuries are generally defined as either cumulative (overuse) or acute (traumatic) injuries. Both types of injuries may occur in different areas of the body.

Acute vs. Cumulative Injuries

  • Acute or traumatic injuries occur due to a sudden force, or impact, and can be quite dramatic.
  • Overuse or cumulative 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.


Shoulder

Shoulder overuse injuries are very common, especially for pitchers. In softball, biceps injuries are more common than shoulder injuries, but the windmill pitching motion can be especially stressful on the body. In baseball, the overhead throwing position can also lead to shoulder (labrum) problems.

  • Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis): This is more common in older players, but those with frequent shoulder injuries may also be at risk.
  • Glenohumeral arthritis: This post-traumatic arthritis can occur when the shoulder joint undergoes repeated injuries.
  • 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.
  • Shoulder separation: This is usually a traumatic injury that happens in a collision or fall with an outstretched hand.
  • 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.

Elbow

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

  • Bursitis of the elbow: This inflammation of the joint sac most often occurs after falling on the elbow.
  • Little League elbow (medial epicondylitis apophysitis): This is an injury to the growth plate on the inside of the elbow. It is also an overuse injury caused by the action of the wrist flexors pulling on the inside of the elbow. It is typically attributed to overuse and poor mechanics with throwing.
  • 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.
  • Ulnar collateral ligament injuries: While skiers often have traumatic injuries to the UCL during falls, pitchers develop chronic injuries due to pitching action (primarily from overuse and poor mechanics).

Wrist and Hand

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

  • Finger fractures: These can be caused by impact with the ball or by falls.
  • Wrist sprains: These can be caused by a fall or impact with the ball or another player.
  • 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.

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. The injuries can be identified by manual tests performed by a physician. But manual tests have poor reliability with detecting these type of injuries. An MRI is the gold standard to confirm the diagnosis. Typical symptoms include difficulty bending, a locking sensation, pain with twisting, and joint line pain.

Chondromalacia

The term "chondromalacia" 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).

Patellar Dislocations

This injury occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position. This injury is more common in softball and is more often diagnosed in women. An x-ray is usually used to confirm the condition. Symptoms include pain that is often described as being inside the knee.

Other Types of 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.

Injury Prevention

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:

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

It is also important to note that many overuse injuries occur when young athletes specialize in sports at an early age and play the same sport year around.

Experts advise that is is important to take breaks and play different sports.

It's also essential to avoid specializing in a certain position (like pitching). Repetitive stress on specific structures (like the elbow or shoulder with pitching) can ultimately lead to these injuries.

A Word From Verywell

If you are dealing with a throwing-related shoulder or elbow pain seek help from a qualified physical therapist who has specific experience with treating baseball players. You may also benefit from seeking the guidance of a coach or expert who can teach proper throwing mechanics.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process 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.