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A Common Baseball Injury… And How to Avoid It!

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

Baseball players and parents of ballplayers, if I told you there was a somewhat common baseball-related injury that could lead to a surgery that takes anywhere from 11 to 20 months to recover from… you would want to do everything you can to prevent this injury, right?

The injury I’m talking about is known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) damage. The UCL is a thick triangular band of tissue in the elbow that helps you stabilize the ball as you throw. Because of the repetitive motion involved in throwing the baseball, the UCL sometimes sustains damage. This injury can be especially common in pitchers.

However, UCL injuries in baseball players can be avoided if you take some basic precautions to minimize risk and avoid overuse. Let’s take a closer look at an infographic recently published by National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), which provides some suggestions for staying clear of UCL injuries…

How to Stay Safe on the Baseball Diamond

NATA recommends…

  • Avoid specializing in one sport.
  • Work to strengthen your rotator cuff, scapular muscles and core.
  • Follow a warm-up routine that allows you to gradually increase distance and velocity.
  • Don’t play on multiple baseball teams during a season.
  • Take at least six weeks off from throwing after the season is finished.
  • Develop a preseason throwing program/long toss program.
  • Talk with your coaches and athletic trainer about any arm pain you experience.
  • Follow your league’s pitch-count guidelines.
  • Focus on proper body mechanics, command and accuracy when throwing.
  • Pay attention to your posture, range of motion and flexibility.

What Happens If You Do Have a UCL Injury?

If you do sustain significant damage to the UCL, you may be a candidate for a procedure known as “Tommy John surgery,” in which a the ligament is replaced with one from somewhere else in the body (such as a forearm, hamstring or foot). Though 83 to 97 percent of major and minor league players who have Tommy John surgery return to pitching, those numbers might not always be the case with high school and college-aged players. (By the way, this injury is on the rise among teenaged players.) Additionally, recovery, as I mentioned earlier, can take anywhere from 11 to 20 months, which means getting back in the game requires significant (and gradual) training. For more information, view the infographic below…

Find a Sports Medicine Physician Near You In Houston

For more information about UCL damage and other elbow injuries, schedule an appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.