While I know that almost none of my readers are professional baseball players, I do know that many of you are baseball fans. More importantly, though, a large number of you either play baseball or have kids that play. So when I read a new study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, I thought it had some value for a number of you.
Matthew Posner et al. studied injuries that resulted in players being placed on the disabled list from 2002 to 2008. In Major League Baseball, a team physician has to certify that a player is unable to play and list a specific diagnosis. The player then cannot return to play for at least 15 days. This study only looked at injuries that caused players to go on the disabled list, so it likely does not account for less severe injuries causing a player to miss only a few games.
The authors found that there were 3072 players placed on the disabled list from 2002 to 2008. They found a surprising 37% increase in these injuries between 2005 and 2008. While it seems to me that this increase could be a statistical anomaly or short-term fluctuation, the authors feel that it represents a true increase over time.
More important to me are the trends with timing of baseball injuries and who gets them. As one might expect, pitchers tended to get a larger percentage of the upper extremity injuries, while field players got more of the lower extremity injuries. Overall, pitchers had a 34% higher incidence rate for injuries during this study period.
Far more players were placed on the disabled list in the month of April, the first month of the Major League Baseball season. The number of players placed on the disabled list dropped each subsequent month, with September being the lowest. Now the low numbers in September could be a reflection of MLB rules allowing teams to increase roster size to 40 players in that month, so teams might not make players ineligible to play for 15 days more often in September.
For those of you who either play baseball or have kids that play, this data should help plan regimens for staying on the field. Pitchers are more affected with overuse injuries to the shoulder and elbow. Therefore a maintenance rotator cuff and scapulothoracic strengthening program done every day throughout the season might help prevent some of these injuries. Fielders might focus more on core and lower extremity strengthening and stretching. And with the predominance of injuries occurring at the beginning of each season, the importance of offseason and preseason conditioning programs needs to be examined. Adding daily maintenance programs into a normal practice schedule during the season and into daily training programs in the offseason might help baseball players stay on the field and out of the doctor’s office.