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updated: 4/23/2013 11:33 AM

Play Ball . . . Play Safe!

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Julie Gardner

The official start of the baseball season has guaranteed that players everywhere are getting ready to pick up their bats, balls and gloves! Unfortunately, America's favorite pastime can sometimes lead to injuries.

The athletic trainers and physical therapists at ATI Physical Therapy are all too familiar with these conditions, and know what needs to be done to help prevent and rehabilitate players. So, let's take a look at these common injuries:

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Overuse: The most common among players under the age of 18. This is a musculoskeletal injury that results in tissue damage from repetitive demand over the course of time.

Strain: This injury affects the muscles or tendons (bands that attach muscles to bones). A strain is caused by a quick pull, twist or micro-tear of the muscle, especially when muscles are not stretched or warmed-up properly.

Sprain: Unlike a strain (which many use interchangeably) this injury affects the ligaments, bands of tissue that attach bones to other bones. A sprain is caused by the ligament being stretched beyond its capacity, and can range from a mild stretch to a complete tear.

Dislocation: The displacement of a bone from a joint that can cause loss of movement, pain and swelling. The most common involve a finger, thumb, shoulder, or hip.

Nate Whitney, physical therapist with ATI in Homer Glen, IL, and former minor league and collegiate baseball player, stresses good body mechanics and a good strength and conditioning program to help prevent injuries. Equally important is the need to recognize and prevent overuse injuries.

"A 2 - 4 month period of no throwing at some point during the year is very important and a widely accepted standard observed by the most experienced baseball players and coaches," says Whitney. "Year round participation in baseball/softball activities has become an unnecessary trend, and has corresponded with an exponential spike in youth arm injuries, and has limited an unknown number of high school, college and professional careers. Parents and coaches of year-round, single-sport athletes need to be aware of the increased injury risk of year round throwing, monitor closely for signs of physical and mental fatigue, and be willing to modify activity levels accordingly."

Whitney also stresses that players follow pitch-count recommendations offered by USA Baseball. "Pitching more than 80 pitches per game has been shown to leave a player at a 4 times increased risk of injury to their throwing arm, while regularly pitching with fatigue could result in 36 times increased risk of injury (Olsen SJ et al 2006). Pitch counts and fatigue are characteristics that have been shown to be significant and need to be closely monitored."

Recommended Pitch Counts

9-10 year old pitchers

50 pitches per game

75 pitches per week

11-12 year old pitchers

75 pitches per game

100 pitches per week

13-14 year old pitchers

75 pitches per game

125 pitches per week

If you or your little slugger are feeling pain from playing ball, visit ATI Physical Therapy for a Complimentary Injury Screening. ATI will evaluate your injury, address your concerns, and provide you with options for continued care. Visit www.ATIpt.com for a location near you.

ATI Physical Therapy is a nationally recognized orthopedic rehabilitation provider, specializing in physical therapy, sports medicine, work conditioning/hardening (F.I.R.S.T.™), functional capacity assessments, aquatic health, hand therapy, and women's health. With over 200 clinics in seven states (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania) ATI is known for its motivating staff, hands-on, personalized treatment programs, exceptional results and innovative research-based programs.

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