When most people think of softball, whether it be recreational leagues played on the weekend, or much more competitive and demanding settings like Women’s Professional Fastpitch, the possibility of softball injuries rarely comes to mind until they happen.
Even though many people consider softball a non-contact sport, it can still create serious demands on an athlete’s body.
So understanding the most common softball injuries can help players avoid getting hurt in the first place.
Most Common Softball Injuries
As anyone who has ever played softball knows, there’s no lack of competitive spirit during games, and athletes of all ages give everything they have on the field.
Even though everyone can take key steps to prevent getting hurt, experiencing a softball injury is sometimes unavoidable, especially when players are focused on making plays.
Here are Some of the Most Common Softball Injuries
Overuse injuries are generally caused by repeated stress and strain on a particular area of the body. These types of softball injuries are usually due to repetitive movements from throwing or hitting balls.
Many overuse injuries typically occur in the soft tissue, like muscles, tendons, and ligaments, but they can also develop in the joints.
Tennis Elbow or Golfers Elbow
Lateral Epicondylitis, casually known as tennis elbow, is the result of inflammation or micro-tears in the tendon that connects the outside of the elbow to the muscles in the forearm. Here are some typical tennis elbow symptoms.
Medial Epicondylitis, referred to as golfer’s elbow, is a similar condition that leads to pain and inflammation on the inside of the elbow.
Shoulder Tendonitis is caused when the thick, fibrous cords of the tendon that attaches the shoulder muscles to the bone become inflamed and irritated. Players will generally start feeling pain and discomfort in the upper arm and at the tip of the shoulder, especially when twisting the arm or lifting it overhead.
Pitchers may be especially vulnerable to this form of softball injury and should be aware if shoulder tendonitis symptoms appear so he or she can begin treatment as soon as possible.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries can cause weakness in the shoulder joint, severely limit a player’s range of motion, and be extremely painful.
Located toward the back of the shoulder joint, the supraspinatus tendon and muscle can suffer from inflammation, tears, or ruptures as a result of sudden trauma or overuse.
Wrist Tendonitis can occur when the long band of tendons that run throughout the forearm and connect to the hand get inflamed, irritated, or torn.
Players may experience not only pain and discomfort, but are also likely to have difficulty moving the wrist from side to side or back and forth.
Wrist tendonitis can also make it difficult and uncomfortable to open and close the hand.
Without a doubt, ankle strains and sprains are very common softball injuries, and may be the result of uneven playing surfaces, incorrect form, poor fitting or overly worn footwear, and even a collision on the diamond.
Ankle sprains are caused when the foot is over-rotated, stretched, or a tear develops in the soft tissue in the ankle.
A high ankle sprain, which tends to come with a longer recovery time, usually occurs when the foot is over-rotated toward the outer side of the leg.
ACL Tears or Sprains
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a dense band of tissue located at the center of the knee and connects the femur to the tibia. It works to prevent the shinbone from moving forward on the thighbone, stabilizing the knee.
A mild ACL injury occurs when the tissue is overstretched, but a partial or complete tear of the ACL generally requires reconstructive surgery.
Any type of knee injury may cause an athlete to miss some playing time, although ACL surgery recovery can take up to six months to fully recover.
Prevention Tips for Softball Injuries
Avoiding common softball injuries isn’t always possible. But staying fit and training throughout the offseason, including strength exercises, can help limit the likelihood of many softball injuries, especially in the early part of the season.
Other effective prevention strategies for softball injuries include:
- Using properly fitting equipment, including shoes as well as head and face gear when required
- Practicing thorough warm-up movements of light running, stretching, and throwing prior to games and practice sessions
- Working with coaches to focus on proper technique rather than raw power when batting
- Braces, padding, and taping can provide joints extra support for players who have been previously injured or to avoid developing new ones
- Rotating pitchers to other positions to avoid overuse injuries
- Making sure to address any pain if it happens, and avoid continuing to play through pain as much as possible
Treatment Methods for Common Softball Injuries
Treatment approaches for many of the most common softball injuries will vary depending on the type and severity of the issue.
Here are some effective treatment methods for many softball injuries:
1. The RICE Method
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. The RICE Method is a simple and conservative treatment approach for many injuries such as minor strains, pain, and even some tendonitis issues. RICE is often recommended within the first 72 hours after experiencing an injury.
Rest gives the injury time to heal, ice will help decrease inflammation and pain, and using some form of compression bandage will stabilize the injured area. Elevating the injury above the heart may also help reduce swelling and pain.
2. Taping and Strapping
Taping or strapping helps to stabilize the elbow, ankle, knee, or other injured areas and provide support during the healing and recovery process. Immobilizing an injury will also reduce the chances of causing more damage so the player heals faster.
3. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Pain Medications
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications like ibuprofen will help manage pain and can be effective for reducing inflammation. Popular examples include Advil, Midol, and Motrin, and these should be used as directed along with rest and ice.
4. EPAT / Shockwave Therapy for Softball Injuries
EPAT / Shockwave Therapy is a popular sports-medicine approach for treating and healing pain and a wide range of injuries, including softball injuries.
EPAT stands for Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology and it uses low or high-energy sound waves to regenerate damaged tissue and improve blood circulation in the affected area.
This noninvasive technology is sometimes referred to as Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) or simply Shockwave Therapy.
During a typical treatment session, a Shockwave Therapy Machine directs impulse pressure waves at the injured area to reduce inflammation, accelerate the growth of new blood vessels, and heal damaged tissue to speed up healing and recovery.
EPAT / Shockwave Therapy has shown to be successful for healing injuries to avoid surgery, or to help with rehabilitation after surgery. It is also an ideal companion to many types of physical therapy.
5. Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy works well for many common softball injuries and can aid in managing pain and improving movement and mobility. A physical therapist may work with a doctor or independently during recovery to diagnose and treat the injury.
Physical therapy can provide exercises and techniques to increase flexibility, and promote healing and recovery. Many physical therapists will also work with players to teach techniques that prevent additional injuries in the future.
Surgery for softball injuries will only be needed if more conservative, non-surgical treatment methods have failed to work. Many minor injuries respond well to rest, ice, and pain meds. EPAT / Shockwave and physical therapy can be effective for more severe injuries.
As a last resort, surgery may be required for tears that need reconstruction, like an ACL injury or some shoulder and elbow injuries. Unfortunately, any type of surgery will require a longer recovery period and athletes will miss more playing time.
Practicing prevention techniques is the first step to avoiding softball injuries before they ever occur. But in the unfortunate event that an injury does happen, the treatment methods outlined here should help minimize pain, and improve healing and recovery so players can get back on the field more quickly.