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How to Prevent Softball Injuries

In every sport, contact or not, there are risks of injuries. Softball is no different. When you step onto the field there are potential hazards everywhere. Be a smart player by taking the necessary precautions to minimize unforeseen injuries. This guide will highlight a few of the most crucial and pro-active steps you can take as a softball player to protect yourself against injuries.

Warm Up and Stretch for Softball

The first thing to remember is to stretch before every game or practice. Take a short jog to get the oxygen pumping through your body, stretching to loosen your muscles before exertion can prevent sprains and strains. Stretching after practice or even the next day can help remedy sore muscles as well.

Five Stretches to Stay in the Game

One of the most common injuries in softball comes from overuse of the shoulder and inadequate stretching. Here are a few stretches (names may vary) that can help you enjoy an injury-free season:

  1. Arm circles: Rotate both arms in big clockwise circles, and then repeat in counter-clockwise direction. Duplicate the entire stretch with the arms extended sideways at shoulder height in small circles.
  2. Arm pull over: Using your left arm, pull your right arm across you chest until you feel it stretch. Repeat with your left arm.
  3. Triceps pull down: Extend an arm straight up in the air. Bend the elbow so that the palm is now facing your back. With the opposite hand, push down on your elbow until you feel it stretch. Hold it for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat with the opposite arm.
  4. Three-set arm extensions:
    • Extend both arms up and over your head. Interlock your fingers with your palms towards the sky and stretch upwards.
    • Start with both arms at your sides. Interlock your fingers behind your back with palms facing each other and raise your arms up towards the sky as high as you can.
    • Extend your right arm outward, palm to the sky. With your left hand, lay your fingers perpendicular across your right hand and press down. You should feel this stretch in your wrist and forearm. Repeat with the opposite arm.
  5. Pull back: Extend one arm sideways about shoulder height. Grab hold of the wall or a teammate’s shoulder and, while keeping your feet stationary, twist your upper body away from the wall. If you’re stretching your right arm, you’ll want to twist your upper body counter-clockwise. If you’re stretching your left arm, twist your upper body clockwise. You should feel the stretch in the front area of your shoulder (pectoralis major).

When you play softball, your motions are explosive and sporadic. You want your body to be able to withstand heavy impact from running, throwing, sliding, and diving. Ample stretching will help you do this.

Staying Hydrated

If you feel yourself getting thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Since you are active, you need to be constantly drinking water to fuel your body and prevent fatigue. Make sure you take a water break during practices. If your coaches do not call one, it is probably because they got caught up in the drills. Don’t be afraid to ask the coach for a water break.

Get in the habit of bringing your own water. You don’t want to get sick from a teammate, and it’s always safer to drink from your own bottle. In games or tournament play, make sure you drink plenty of water the night before and between innings and games. Staying hydrated will keep you more alert, energized, and healthy. It also helps prevent exhaustion and cramps.

Plyometric Conditioning

Another vital aspect of the game is conditioning. You may dread seeing the coach pull out cones and stopwatches before practice, but you will be thankful later if you work hard and push yourself. Softball games are generally seven innings long, taking a heavy toll on your body. Conditioning increases endurance and ensures that you learn to control your breathing and sustain optimal levels of performance.

Strengthening Your Muscles

Enhance your game by becoming stronger. This can be done through conditioning, weight-training, and exercising. This does not mean you need to become an extreme body builder, but building muscle strength (in the legs, shoulders, back, and core) can help resist against injuries and increase both your arm strength and your power at the plate.

Preparing to Throw

The act of throwing is the biggest culprit for arm injuries in softball. The importance of throwing the ball correctly — over the top and not side-armed — cannot be over-emphasized. Though you may not feel pain today, poor throwing mechanics put such tremendous pressure on your shoulder and elbow that future injuries are likely to follow.

Hot Tip: The RICE Regimen

The RICE Regimen One of the most common methods among trainers in treating acute injuries is the RICE Regimen: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.

Rest: If you sustain an injury, stop immediately. In many cases, playing after an injury occurs will make it worse.

Ice: After a game or practice, put ice on sore muscles or limbs for at least 20 minutes.

Compress: Using a compression bandage, wrap your injuries. If it is a recent injury, make sure you loosen the wrap every 30 minutes to accommodate for swelling.

Elevate: Elevate your injured limb above your heart to help decrease swelling. These four steps combined should also be effective in reducing pain.

If you are an outfielder, make sure you warm up with long toss before making routine throws to the infield. After your team warm-up, take a fellow outfielder and do some relaxed long toss because rapid throws don’t help prepare you to throw a ball from the fence.

If you pitch, be wary of your pitch count. Though many softball pitchers can throw back-to-back games, you don’t want to overuse your arm and cut your season short. The most common injuries to the shoulders are from overuse and fatigue.

Proper Uniform

Lastly, proper and well-fitting equipment is essential. Softball isn’t about looking good; your uniform is mainly functional. You should also always make sure you wear the equipment that is designed to keep you safe.

Shorts and Sliders

The most commonly forgotten garments are compression shorts and knee pads. Compression, or “sliding” shorts, as they’re sometimes called, will save your thighs from scarring and the ever-painful raspberries.

If your uniform calls for shorts and you don’t wear knee pads, your legs will suffer an assortment of scars, scrapes, and bruises. If your team wears pants rather than shorts, you can trend away from wearing knee pads as you gain more experience in sliding techniques.

Cold Weather Gear

If it’s cold, wear appropriate gear like sleeves, leggings, ear warmers, jackets, or gloves. If you’ve ever had to sprint down the first base line during a cold morning game, you know that it doesn’t typically feel great on your legs. Keeping your muscles loose after you warm-up is a lot easier than trying to instantly stretch them in the middle of an inning (a sure recipe for disaster!)

Batting Helmet Masks

This is mandatory for some teams and leagues, but either way, always use a mask on your batting helmet. Softball pitches are unique because they can rise and have backspin. The last thing you want is to foul a ball off your nose or take a rising fastball to the mouth. A batting mask is the safest way to prevent potentially life-altering injuries to your face.

Better Safe than Sorry

The most important aspect of preventing injuries is to know your body. If something hurts, get it checked out. There is no injury too small to notice. The more in tune you are, the faster you’ll be able to point out discomforts and avoid more serious and debilitating injuries.

No one likes being on the injured list. If you take the right precautions, you can prevent it! This guide will lead the way to more innings and less injuries.
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