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Youth Baseball Softball and T-ball - What Parents Need to Know

Youth Baseball, Softball and T-ball: What Parents Need to Know

Youth sports injuries have been on the rise for years, and baseball players are not immune to this trend. 1 in 5 players between the ages of 9 and 15 will have an injury each year. The good news is that only 5% of these injuries result in surgery, or being unable to continue to play baseball. More good news comes when you learn that the majority of injuries are preventable with proper training and awareness.

Many of the injuries seen in baseball are common to other youth sports and include things like:

  1. Sprains and strains
  2. Fracture
  3. Minor injuries like bruises, scrapes, abrasions, and muscle cramps

Keys to preventing these types of injuries are making sure that players have a proper base of strength and fitness to participate, adequate warm up before practice and games, and making sure that players have enough recovery time built into their schedules throughout the season.

Injuries Unique to Baseball/Softball

In addition to the common injuries above, baseball sees a large number of injuries due to overuse. These most commonly occur in the shoulder and arm, typically in a pitcher. Parents of athletes who pitch need to be aware of the risks of pitching and guidelines to minimize them. Studies have shown that pitchers who average more than 80 pitches in a game are 4x more likely to get injured. They have also found that pitching for more than 8 months out of the year, causes your injury risk to increase by 5x.

Tips to prevent pitching injuries

  1. Pick a team to pitch for -if you play on multiple teams, choose oneto pitch for and play a different position on the other to reduce the chances of injury
  2. Don’t play a position that requires a lot of throwing on your non-pitching days, like catcher
  3. Take 2 to 4 months off each year from pitching to rest your arm
  4. Keep your arm healthy and strong. The thrower’s ten was developed specifically for throwing athletes and is a good place to start.
  5. Stop pitching if you feel pain, or fatigue. Throwing through problems will change your mechanics and put you at risk for serious injury
  6. Follow the guidelines for rest days and total pitches below.

If you’re 14 or under:

Pitches Thrown Rest Days
1-20 No rest day required
21-35 1 rest day
36-50 2 rest days
51-65 3 rest days
66+ 4 rest days

15 and under can throw a bit more

Pitches Thrown Rest Days
1-30 No rest day required
31-45 1 rest day
46-60 2 rest days
61-75 3 rest days
76+ 4 rest days

Finally, you should aim to keep under the maximum number of daily pitches set by Little League Baseball and Softball:

Age Max Pitches Per Day
7-8 50
9-10 75
11-12 85
13-16 95
Physical Therapy to Improve Your Golf Game

Physical Therapy to Improve Your Golf Game

We’ve all heard that a proper warm up is important before exercise, and that skipping it can lead to injury. As physical therapists, one of the more common places we see people skipping warm ups or doing them improperly is at the golf course. For many golfers, the warm up is carrying the golf bag from the trunk of the car to the cart. For others hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range or taking some practice swings is a warm up.

The golf swing is a complex, full body motion that puts a lot of force through the bones, muscles, and ligaments. Jumping straight into swinging a club without properly preparing those bones, muscles and ligaments puts golfers at risk for injury. A good rule of thumb to help you remember what a proper golf warm up looks like is that you can’t swing to warm up, you have to warm up to swing.

A proper warm up happens right before you start golfing, so that means you’ll be doing it at the course. If swinging a club isn’t a good warm up, what does one look like? It’s a series of dynamic activities that raises your heart rate to 60% of your maximum. The easy way to figure this number out is to subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum, then multiply that by 60% to get your target heart rate for your warm up. So for a 55 year old, the maximum heart rate would be 165 (220-55) and 60% of that is 99 (165 x 0.6).

Each exercise below should be done for about 1 minute on both sides of your body to keep symmetry and be done a pace to get your heart rate up to the target you calculated.

Neck circles

Drop your chin down to your collar bone, then rotate your head in a circle, bringing your ear to your right shoulder, up to the sky, to your left shoulder, then down at the floor. Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch directions.

Neck Rotation

Turn your head to the left and hold for 2 seconds, then to the right and hold for 2 seconds. Continue for 60 seconds.

Torso Rotation with Club

Stand in a 5-iron posture with your feet shoulder-width apart, and a slight bend in your knees and waist. Hold the club in front of your shoulders with crossed arms, and keeping your hips steady, rotate your shoulders from side to side.  The end of the club should point forward at the biggest point of the stretch

Side Bends with Club

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.  Hold the club on your shoulders behind your neck. Keeping your back straight, bend to your left and hold for two seconds, then to the right and hold for two seconds. Make sure you’re not bending forward or backward as you bend from side to side.

Shoulder Circles

Do small shoulder circles for 30 seconds, first clockwise and then counter clockwise.

Toy Soldiers

Walk forward, kicking one leg and then the other out in front of you while keeping your back and knees straight. As you kick, reach your arm on the same side, aiming to touch your toes to your fingers. Keep your toes flexed toward your body as you kick.

High Knees Walk

Walk around where you are, and with each step, grab your leg just below the knee with both hands and pull it as close to your chest as possible, feeling a stretch in the glute. Hold the stretch for a second and then release and take the next step.

Reverse Lunge Calf Stretch

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and step back with one leg. Keep your back knee straight with your heel on the ground as you bend your front knee and drop into a slight lunge. Hold for a moment and then switch legs, alternating legs for 60 seconds.  Hold onto a wall or chair if you need to.

You might wonder where the static stretching is in this warm up. Research has shown that static stretching (holding a stretch for a long period of time) done before activity can actually hurt your performance. Static stretching is important as part of the cool down after activity, however. So before you head to the 19th hole, stretch and re-hydrate with some water.

Early Sport Specialization: What Parents Need To Know

Early Sport Specialization: What Parents Need To Know

It is becoming more popular for young athletes to specialize in a single sport. The advantages seem obvious. Putting in more time early and “outworking” the competition should lead to a better chance of success later right? Even though that seems to make intuitive sense, early specialization may not be giving kids the advantages parents think and comes with some risks.

 

THE ADVANTAGES

The obvious advantage is skill acquisition. Baseball players use the off-season to work on hitting or pitching mechanics, basketball players work on their shooting, and tennis players might work to develop their serve. Specific skills like these do take time and repetition to develop. Athletes who spend more time developing them will likely have more skill. But what are the costs?

 

THE DISADVANTAGES

Focusing on specific skill acquisition comes at the cost of overall athletic development. Athletes who participate in many sports gain more athleticism and tend to have more strength, balance, speed, and agility.

Athletes who participate in a variety of sports give their bones, muscles, and tendons exposure to a wide variety of forces. Athletes who specialize early have more repetitive stress that puts them at a higher risk of injury.

Specializing early in a sport puts athletes at risk of burnout and psychological fatigue. When athletes participate in club sports, travel teams, or extra off-season practice for the wrong reasons or when they’re not fully invested mentally and emotionally, it can be detrimental. Athletes who suffer psychological burnout are much more likely to lose interest in their sport, or even worse – physical activity in general.

Lastly, research has not supported the idea that early specialization leads to long term success. In fact, it shows the opposite. A study of international athletes looked at the time that they began specialization. It found that the elite athletes played multiple sports during their developmental years (defined in the article as 11 and younger). Near-elite athletes specialized at a younger age. The study concluded that waiting to specialize until the athlete reaches physical maturity could be more likely to result in elite status. A study of Olympians came to the same conclusion. A 2014 survey by the USOC found that Olympians averaged 3 sports per year from ages 10 – 14, and 2 sports per year from 15 – 18.

CONCLUSION

Early specialization may lead to earlier acquisition of sport specific skills, but comes with multiple disadvantages:

  1. Focusing on specific skills comes at the cost of developing general athleticism
  2. Athletes who specialize early have a higher risk for injury
  3.  Early specialization is associated with burnout
  4. Elite athletes and Olympians tend to have been multi-sport athletes who specialized late, indicating that early specialization does not lead to long-term success

For athletes who aspire to play at collegiate or higher levels, specialization becomes necessary at some point. While the right time to specialize will vary from athlete to athlete, there are some guidelines.

  1. An athlete’s age can be used to gauge how many hours a week they should be practicing a specific sport (A 12 year old should spend no more than 12 hours a week on a certain sport)
  2. For most sports, waiting until an athlete has reached skeletal maturity is generally recommended
  3. Specialization should happen when the athlete chooses to do so, without external pressures
Ask a physical therapist to

Ask a Physical Therapist to

Let’s talk about the last time you—or someone close to youinterviewed for a new job. Chances are that the first step was a phone screen with your potential employer, and when you passed that portion of the process with flying colors, you were then invited for an in-person interview. At that stage, the employer probably asked you to answer a series of questions and to demonstrate your skills through a test or two. The process is set up in a way that narrows down the options until the most suitable candidate is found. Makes sense, right?

Just as job recruiters screen applicants to find the best fit for an open position, your PT will ask you to perform a series of exercises so that she can observe and understand your body mechanics to uncover any issues or limitations. Used in combination with a full evaluation and assessment, these so-called movement screens are just one tool in identifying the most appropriate treatment or prevention program for you. But unlike that test you may have taken during a job interview, the screen is not testing your skills or abilities, it’s simply a way of identifying how your body functions during a variety of movements.

Now that spring is in full swing, it’s the perfect time of year to make an appointment with your physical therapist for a movement screen. The warmer weather means more time spent outdoors participating in sports and other recreational activities that may be physically demanding. A PT checkup that includes a movement screen will ensure that you’re physically able to engage in popular spring and summer adventures, whether it’s exploring in the woods, tending to your garden, or swimming at your family’s lake house.

Physical therapists perform movement screens for a variety of reasons, including:

  • • To identify areas of strength and weakness
  • • To uncover issues or rule them out
  • • To determine readiness to begin a safe exercise program
  • • To improve sport performance (for both novice and elite athletes)

A movement screen is something that you can have done whether you have a nagging injury or are simply ready to kickstart your activity level after a long hiatus. Gaining an understanding of how your body performs during basic exercises such as squats and lunges helps your PT ensure that you can safely jump on a bike or into a pool this summer. And just like an employer screens candidates to identify the one individual who is likely to thrive on the job for many years to come, a movement screen can help you develop a lasting and fulfilling relationship with the activities you enjoy most.

Common Basketball Injuries and Prevention Tips

Basketball is the most popular youth sport in the US. A study by the National Athletic Trainers Association found that 22% of male basketball players have an injury that causes them to miss playing time each year. 42% of the time, that injury is to the ankle or foot, making this the most injured area.

Some other common injuries to basketball players include:

Lower Extremity

  1. Muscle strains such as a groin pull, quadriceps, hamstring, or calf strain
  2. Knee ligament injuries such as ACL, LCL, MCL tears or sprains
  3. Ankle sprains, including high ankle sprain
  4. Ankle fractures
  5. Overuse injuries such as patellar tendonitis, IT band pain, shin splints

Upper Extremity

  1. Falls, leading to fractures, dislocation, or sprains of the wrist, elbow, or shoulder
  2. Jammed fingers

Head

  1. Concussion as a result from a collision between head and the ground, usually from falling

 

Knowledge of the most common types of injuries gives us a place to start thinking about prevention. While not all injuries can be prevented, there are some things parents and players can do to reduce the risk of being injured.

  1. Have an annual physical completed by a physical therapist or other qualified professionalThis should include baseline testing of strength, ROM, and a baseline concussion test
  2. Make sure you have an adequate base of strength and aerobic fitnessThe annual physical mentioned above should identify areas needing addressed here. Your PT or other professional can help design a training a program to address your specific needs
  3. Improve your balance and proprioception – this can help reduce the risk of the foot and ankle injuries so common in basketballThis can be accomplished with off-season strength and conditioning as well as participation in injury prevention programs to work on jumping and landing skills
  4. Avoid overuse injuries and burnoutTaking time off throughout the season and the year will let the body recover
  5. Hydrate adequately before and during practice and games
  6. Wear properly fitted shoes
  7. Be aware of the environmentEspecially when playing basketball on outside courts – the court may not be smooth and even everywhere.