Along with the warm temperatures and long daylight hours of summer comes the irresistible urge to play outside. Maybe that is why millions of Americans participate in organized softball leagues.
Though playing softball is a great way to get fresh air, spend time with friends, and impress co-workers with your athletic prowess, it is not quite the injury-free, non-contact sport many participants believe it to be. In fact, softball injuries can lead to emergency room visits. Some common injuries include:
- Abrasions—cuts and scrapes
- Ankle sprains
- Strained hamstrings and quadriceps
- Strained Achilles tendon or calf muscle
- Finger injuries
- Shoulder and arm injuries
- Head injuries from player collisions or being hit in the head with a ball
Luckily, many of these injuries are preventable. The key is to stay in shape all year long.
Preparation in the Off-season
Take a cue from the pros and take steps to prevent injuries before the season begins.
An important thing for softballers to work on is flexibility. Softball entails a lot of starting and stopping, bending and twisting, and bursts of motion. Good flexibility will save you from a lot of the strains and tears. Consider a comprehensive stretching program all year, paying plenty of attention to calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, trunk muscles, shoulders, and arms. Yoga can also help you gain flexibility.
In the off-season, you can also work on developing muscle strength in both the upper and lower body. Focus should be on the shoulders. Throwing a ball incorrectly or without proper strength in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist can lead to injury.
Cardiovascular training is important. It will build up your endurance, which is handy when you are running around a softball field. Try biking, jogging, swimming, cross-country skiing, or some other aerobic exercise to build up a base level of aerobic fitness. Make sure that your aerobic training includes sprint work. Sprinting will help your speed, agility, and give you that quick burst of speed that you will need to steal a base or chase a ball.
Before the Game
You spent the off-season getting ready for spring. Now what? You are almost ready to take the field. Before you do, make sure you warm up in advance at each practice and game. Here are some tips to get moving:
- Get the blood flowing. Start with a light cardiovascular warm-up to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm. Try some simple jumping jacks or jogging.
- Stretch your muscles. Do several minutes of total body stretching, focusing especially on shoulders and hamstrings. Keep in mind you should stretch every day to maintain flexibility.
- Warm up your arm. Warm up your throwing motion, first without the ball, then with the ball. Throw gently for five or so minutes, gradually increasing speed and distance.
- Practice your swing. Simulate batting motion, first without the bat, then with the bat. Start with a slow and deliberate motion and gradually increase speed and strength of swing.
- Stay loose. Remember that you will be standing still a lot during the game, so try to jog in place and keep stretching to stay warm while you are not in motion.
Many softball injuries are throwing-related or sliding-related. Proper technique can save you from many of these. Work with a coach or an experienced player to make sure your technique is correct.
Learning the proper way to slide takes practice. Start out with a sliding bag. When you work your way up to bases, always use a breakaway base.
The same goes for throwing: You need to do it right. Your whole body should be used during a throw, from your legs, through your trunk, to your shoulder and down your arm. Improper technique can cause a lot of pain. And never throw too hard, too fast. Start by throwing short distances, softly.
There are plenty of simple steps you can take to make a softball game safer. Here are some examples:
- Communicate with your fellow outfielders. Make sure you know where everyone is and who is going for the ball to help avoid collisions.
- Have a good glove. You do not want a glove that is so old or so small that it does not stay on or the ball pops out of it.
- Do not block the base. You will avoid collisions with runners if you give them a clear path to the base.
- Use breakaway bases. If you are setting up the field, make sure to use bags that give when a runner slides into them. It might make the field less tidy, but they can save many a sprained or broken ankle.
- Wear a helmet. A helmet will help protect you from a head injury.
- Use kneepads and sliding pants. You'll avoid a lot of cuts, abrasions, and bruises.
- Wear an ankle brace. If you have a history of ankle sprains and you're playing on a field that's not in great condition, you'll need a little extra support.
- Wear protective goggles over your glasses. You don't want lenses shattering in your eyes.
- Be alert. Know where the ball is and make an effort not to let it hit you in the head, even when you are not on the field.
- Treat your injuries. If you do suffer a softball injury, take care of it. Respect a sore arm, and rest it so you don't get seriously injured. If you suffer a contusion, ice the injury and apply compression to prevent excessive swelling. And if you're seriously injured, don't try to buck the statistics. Get to the emergency room.
When the sun sets on the summer and you make your last dash to the dugout, start thinking about your fall and winter workout plans. It will improve your game and help keep you safe.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2016 -
- Update Date: 08/25/2016 -