By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
The spring sports season heralds the arrival of baseball, softball, track and field. This also means 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 practice sessions and games start without any real training. Some players were less active during the winter, while others played indoor sports, but all may not quite be ready for “full steam ahead” play.
I’m already seeing both boys and girls coming in complaining of muscle strains and sprains. Kids need to get into shape with throwing, hitting, pitching, fielding and running practice increasing over time, but no one seems to understand “gradual” these days!
Kids want to play and they may want to impress their coaches, as well. They’re 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 ups and stretching exercises 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 also 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 sessions also helps prevent overuse injuries. I’ve already seen a high school baseball player this spring with elbow pain, who admitted to me that he was pitching curve balls and fast balls far over the number he’s supposed to. He doesn’t realize the stress he’s placing on his body, and it’s still very early in the season. He was not thrilled that I told him he needed 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. If your young player’s shoulder or elbow is already hurting, try a slower spring re-entry into throwing and pitching.
There’s an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on Baseball and Softball with some practical information for parents and coaches and officials at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-3593
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)
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This column was printed in the May 31, 2015 - June 13, 2015 edition