It’s springtime again – or nearly there, anyway – and all sports fans know what that means: spring training and the return of Major League Baseball’s players to their winter training grounds. Unfortunately, as players come back to the stadiums, they also return to a heightened risk of back injury.
Commonly known as overuse injuries, these lower back injuries can be subtle and usually occur over prolonged periods of time. They are the result of repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones, and joints, typically caused by training errors involving a too-rapid acceleration of the intensity, duration, or frequency of a given activity.
Studies show the majority of injuries occur in the beginning of the season due to lack of conditioning in spring training. These injuries decrease steadily each month starting in April and going through September, the first and last months of the season.
According to Dr. Douglas Comeau, a sports medicine physician and assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine, the most common injuries among fielders include hamstring and groin strains, and pitchers tend to strain or tear ligaments in the elbow or rotator cuff. “Major league baseball players might not take spring training seriously, but then need to play a whole game in a competitive situation,” he says. Since the start of spring training in late February, there have already been a slew of injuries threatening entire seasons for major players, like Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee, Mario Hollands, and, most recently, Zack Wheeler.
Players should talk to a trainer or doctor who specializes in sports medicine to develop a technique they can rotate with different exercises. It’s important to understand how to prevent and treat overuse injuries before they become too serious:
- Warm up properly before and after physical activity
- Rest to give your body time to heal
- Use ice to reduce soreness and pain
- Communicate regularly to a sports medicine professional or doctor about your training and technique
- Use a muscle relaxant to reduce pain and discomfort when needed
If you or someone you know is active in sports and concerned about overuse injuries, come share your question on Facebook.