With the advent of spring the sport season heralds in baseball, softball, track and field. This also means that kids need to be prepared to play.
Professional ball players spend 4-6 weeks in spring training, preparing for the season, but for many kids the spring ball season starts without any real spring training. Some kids have been less active during the winter, others may have been playing indoor sports, but with spring kids of all ages head outside to “play ball”. Their bodies may not be quite ready for “full steam ahead” play.
I am already starting to see both boys and girls coming in complaining of early muscle strains and sprains. Kids need to get into shape with throwing, hitting, pitching and fielding increasing over time. But no one seems to understand “gradual” these days.
Kids want to play ball and they may want to impress their coaches as well. They are being watched to determine who plays which position, batting line up etc. which may make some athletes try to throw too much or too hard as they first start back.
Parents (and coaches) need to encourage daily pre-activity warm up and stretching followed by light throwing to prepare the body to increase the activity and intensity over several weeks rather than days.
Kids need to learn proper throwing mechanics which will not only improve efficiency but will control stress on the body. The shoulder joint is held together almost entirely by muscles. Developing strength and endurance in the key muscle groups that keep the shoulder stable will help to prevent fatigue.
The same goes for pitching. Strict adherence to pitch counts, and well as following the recommended rest period between pitching will help to prevent overuse injuries as well. I have already seen a high school baseball player with elbow pain who admitted to me that he was pitching curve balls and fast balls, far over the number that he is supposed to. He does not realize the stress that he is placing on his body, and it is still very early in the season. He was not thrilled that I told him he need a week off to rest before he started back and then much less aggressively. He has a few more years of high school ball before he even thinks about college baseball and needs to stay healthy.
Remember to use ice as an anti-inflammatory as well as ibuprofen. And if shoulder or elbows already hurting, try a slower spring re-entry into throwing and pitching.
There is an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on Baseball and Softball with some practical information for parents and coaches and officials. Check it out at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-3593