Summer is on the way, which means bright sunny days, spending time on the patio with family and friends, and of course, softball season. But this also means, unfortunately, that it’s softball injury season, too.
It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in a tournament with some real superstars, having fun in a “beer league” with your buddies, or are part of a corporate team, softball injuries can do more than put a damper on your home run swing or signature strikeout pitch — it can send you to the Emergency Room, and put you on the extended disabled list.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can proactively reduce the chances that you’ll be cheering your team on from the stands instead of being in the dugout or on the diamond. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Preventing a Pulled Hamstring
“Pulling a hammy” is perhaps the most common of all softball injuries. Indeed, we all wince with empathy when we see a batter race around the bases — only to suddenly pull up, start hopping, and grab their thigh. The best way to prevent this is by carefully stretching out your legs and doing some light jogging before the game starts. Think of it like warming up your car’s engine before you head out on the freeway.
- Preventing the Dreaded “Frozen Shoulder”
While there are many different shoulder-related sports injuries, among the most dreaded is the “frozen shoulder” (a.k.a. adhesive capsulitis), which limits the overall range of motion. The best way to prevent this injury is by gently and carefully stretching out the shoulder BEFORE you start throwing. This reason I’m emphasizing BEFORE, is because many softball players (along with other recreational athletes and especially kids) believe that the best way to warm up and loosen the shoulder is by throwing. This is a mistake! As mentioned, stretch first and then throw.
- Preventing a Torn ACL or MCL
Pulling a hammy or experiencing frozen shoulder are both painful and certainly unwelcome – but they pale in comparison to tearing an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or medial collateral ligament (MLC). Indeed, these are the kinds of sports injuries that can prematurely end the season for professional athletes; or in some cases, end their career — just as it did for John Elway’s brother Jack. One of the best ways to reduce your risk of a torn ACL or MCL is with a lying knee roll-over stretch. Here’s what to do: while lying on your back and with your arms to the side, slowly bend your knees and let them fall over one side. Allow your back and hips rotate with your knees.
The Bottom Line
With some extra care, you can ensure that softball season is fun and exciting — not injury-riddled and painful. If you’re concerned about your health and want to make sure that you’re in “game shape,” consult with an orthopedic surgeon.