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Understanding Common Baseball Injuries

Last updated: May 9, 2024

As the world awakens to spring, ballparks come alive as well. Many people love to take part in America’s pastime, from kids and teens to adult softball leaguers to professional players.

Along with its many joys, baseball and softball come with their share of common injuries. Understanding the risks and taking precautions can reduce the chances of getting hurt and up the odds of the enjoying a fun and rewarding season.

To get an expert take on common injuries, we checked in with two ThedaCare Orthopedic Care specialists: Dr. Ryan Wagner, a sports medicine physician, and Dr. Nickolas Linkous, a sports medicine surgeon.

Sprains, Strains, and Fractures

These types of injuries are common in baseball and softball, as well as other sports and activities. Many people become more sedentary over the winter. Failing to ease back into activity can increase the risk of injury.

“One way to prevent that is staying active year-round,” Dr. Wagner says. “Try to develop a comprehensive conditioning program that includes cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises.”

Activity is important, but so is downtime. Regardless of age or fitness level, it’s vital to take adequate rest time to allow the body to recover.

“Also, getting good sleep and staying well hydrated throughout the year are often overlooked,” Dr. Wagner says.


Overuse conditions are common in baseball and softball. These injuries result when tissue becomes damaged due to repetitive motion over a period of time. Sports specialization has become part of the problem.

“With the competitive nature of sports in general, kids are practicing and playing year-round, which can lead to overuse injuries,” Dr. Wagner says. “We worry about it in young athletes — especially pitchers.”

To help address the issue, organizations and teams have implemented pitch counts.

“The idea is that we reduce the number of pitches that young throwers are throwing to minimize injuries,” Dr. Wagner says. “Research has shown that this has dramatically improved overuse injuries.”


Baseball and softball might not come to mind as top concussion sports, but head injuries can still happen. They can result from getting hit in the head with a ball, tripping or falling, or colliding with a teammate.

“Wearing good protective equipment — especially with batting helmets — and making sure it fits well can help prevent concussion,” Dr. Wagner says.

Shoulder and Elbow Injuries

Maladies include shoulder tears and elbow injuries. Two of the most common are SLAP tears and ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries, Dr. Linkous says.

SLAP, which stands for superior labrum anterior to posterior, is an injury to part of the labrum of the shoulder. The labrum is the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint.

SLAP tear symptoms include:

  • A sensation of locking, popping, catching, or grinding
  • Pain with movement of the shoulder or with holding the shoulder in specific positions
  • Pain with lifting objects, especially overhead
  • Decrease in shoulder strength
  • A feeling that the shoulder is going to “pop out of joint”
  • Decreased range of motion
  • In pitchers, a decrease in their throw velocity or the feeling of having a “dead arm” after pitching

UCL injuries can result from repeated stress from overhead movements. This type of motion is common in sports involve throwing, including baseball and softball. It’s often in seen in pitchers.

UCL injury symptoms include:

  • A sudden pop or pain along the inside of the elbow, leading to the inability to continue throwing
  • Pain on the inside of the elbow after a period of heavy throwing or other overhead activity
  • Pain when accelerating the arm forward, just prior to releasing a ball
  • Tingling or numbness in the pinky and ring fingers

Non-surgical treatment options such as rest, ice, medications, injections, and physical therapy often are effective for both SLAP tears and UCL injuries, Dr. Linkous says. Surgery, when needed, is typically arthroscopic surgery for SLAP tears and UCL reconstruction, often called Tommy John surgery, for UCL tears. Dr. Linkous and his colleague, Dr. Eric Erickson, perform both types of procedures.

Dr. Linkous says he’s pleased to work with all types of individuals.

“As sports surgeons, our general aim in treatment is preservation and restoring function,” he says. “Athletes often define that as returning to their previous level of sports. But usually people are coming and seeing a sports surgeon not for return to sport, but for return to that function of living that they can’t do right now because of X, Y or Z injury.”

Connect to outstanding orthopedic care. Visit ThedaCare Orthopedic Walk-in Care or call (920) 831-5050 to schedule.  

Tags: baseball injuries overuse injuries pitch counts SLAP tear Tommy John surgery UCL injuries

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