The rough and tumble sport of America’s “national pastime”
Baseball for all
While the Native American game of lacrosse is historically the oldest established sport in our country (dating back to the 1100s), baseball reigns as the country’s earliest national sport when Abner Doubleday invented the game in the early 1800s. Professional clubs entered the baseball scene around 1870.
Today, baseball is still considered to be America’s favorite national pastime, with professional football a close second. It’s hard to beat sitting in the ballpark stands on a sunny day, cheering for your team and eating peanuts.
What makes baseball retain its popularity? For one, it’s a game most everyone can play at all levels of age and ability: boys and girls; men and women; youngsters; teens; seniors; male/female mixed community recreational leagues competing in local tournaments; university squads; Triple A farm teams; and ultimately for the most talented, the majors.
No one said playing baseball doesn’t come with the possibility of injury
As with all professional sports played at an elite level, injuries are common within baseball’s major leagues. We hear about players with broken bones, muscle and ligament tears. It’s difficult to imagine how it must feel and what a bone-shaking jolt to the body it is, to run full steam into the wall in the outfield to catch a long fly ball.
This is where physical training, preparation and injury prevention come into play for children and adults alike.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) states that more common baseball injuries include soft tissue injuries, such as muscle pulls (strains), ligament injuries (sprains), cuts and contusions.
Despite the fact that baseball isn’t considered a contact sport per se, the AAOS also says that direct contact with other players or an errantly thrown ball or bat causes the most serious injuries. Overuse of repetitive activity, such as pitching, can damage the rotator cuff or tear ligaments in the elbow. Youth players are especially inclined to eye damage from wild balls that strike the face. Pediatricians now stress the importance of young players adding appropriate protective athletic eyewear to lessen potential damage.
Start with knowledge, preparation and the right equipment
- Children most likely will be required to take a physical exam to prevent injuries and identify any existing medical issues before playing in any sport at their school. Older players in adult leagues would be wise to do the same.
- Always warm up with an exercise that will get your heart pumping and do some gentle stretching before practice or a game. Conversely, cool down and stretch (again) afterward.
- Be sure to stay sufficiently hydrated by drinking lots of noncaffeinated fluid before, during and after practice and games.
- Learn what the correct equipment for general playing, your age and specific position is and always make sure your protective equipment – from batting helmet to well-fitted shoes and everything in between – is in good condition without any holes, rips or tears.
- Learn the proper way to bat, catch, run, pitch and slide into a base.
- Prevent overuse and don’t play if you’re injured or not completely recovered from injury.
- Make certain that the coach is current with rules and regulations.
- There should always be a well-stocked first aid kit on site to address initial treatment for mild cuts, bruises and strains.
For more information, visit these websites:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Orthoinfo, https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/baseball-injury-prevention
By Holly Harmon for Puget Sound Orthopaedics