An article appeared in early 2020, touting the projected successful return of 30 formerly injured Major League Baseball players. This was, of course, before anyone knew of a (perhaps) indefinite postponement of 2020 spring training and subsequent MLB season. Nonetheless, these professional baseball players suffered a barrage of common baseball injuries the season prior—the Mets Yoenis Cespedes with ankle and heel injuries; the Phillies Andrew McCutchen with a knee injury requiring surgery, and the Yankees Luis Severino with a shoulder injury, as examples.
For all the varied injuries listed among the full 30 MLB players, there was one injury that prevailed—Tommy John injury. This elbow injury, typically affecting baseball pitchers, has placed many players on the bench over time. Thankfully, however, despite the dominance of Tommy John injuries of the 30 baseball pros, all players affected were scheduled to return, should the 2020 season have proceeded.
As the official team physicians of both the Durham Bulls and the Holly Springs Salamanders, EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region are experts in identifying and treating common baseball injuries. And, in addition to the Bulls and Salamanders, we work with many other high school, collegiate, and MiLB teams and athletes.
Find out what types baseball sports injuries are most common and how many players are able to resume future baseball seasons (safely).
Why So Many Tommy John Injuries?
A Tommy John injury refers to some degree of tear to the ligament along the medial or inner aspect of the elbow you’re the funny bone, typically but not always from overuse. It can occur suddenly after one pitch in more of a sudden type of injury, but it also can occur gradually with a loss of velocity, easy fatigue, or increased soreness after throwing. The corresponding “Tommy John Surgery,” was named after the former MLB pitcher, as he was the first ever recipient of the surgical repair procedure for a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).
Many other pitchers have followed, undergoing Tommy John surgery to fix a UCL tear. And, despite what would appear as an ominous outlook for that type of elbow injury, John and many baseball players like him, have been able to successfully return to the sport after surgery. John, for example, threw 207 solid innings in 1976 following surgery! And, that was 40-plus years ago! Simply think of the progress and surgical advancements that have been made since then.
Do Baseball Injuries Always End with Surgery?
No. In fact, local University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heel pitcher Gianlunca Dalatri feared that an aching throwing arm indicated a future Tommy John surgery. After receiving an MRI, it was confirmed that rather than a UCL tear, Dalatri was experiencing the symptoms common of overuse injuries. This prognosis changed what could have been a 12 month hiatus to a 12 week recovery. Dalatri’s overuse-injury diagnosis also meant conservative treatment was viable, rather than surgery.
For baseball players, like Dalatri, who experience overuse throwing injuries common in baseball, non-surgical treatments may include:
This allows the elbow, wrist, shoulder and other areas subjected to common baseball injuries an opportunity to heal properly.
- Physical Therapy
A physical therapist has the experience and knowledge to prescribe specific exercises and stretches to strengthen and lengthen the muscles supporting the injured area as well as restore mobility and flexibility. These activities are stacked for a gradual return to throwing.
To help manage pain and swelling, baseball players with throwing injuries may be prescribed non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
What Other Types of Baseball Injuries Are Most Common?
In addition to overhead throwing injuries, baseball players often experience:
Upper extremity baseball injuries are far more common than lower-extremity. One study demonstrated that as many as 75% baseball injuries were of the upper extremities, compared to 27% in lower extremities, and 15% affecting the trunk and back. Next to elbow injuries upper extremity baseball injuries commonly include rotator cuff tendonitis and shoulder instability.
Successful Return to Play
From previously mentioned professional MLB players like Cespedes, McCutchen, and Severino to others such as Jose Bautista after wrist-tendon injury and Derek Jeter following an ankle fracture, many pro-ball players have been able to return to one of America’s favorite pastimes.
Whether treated conservatively or surgically, many common baseball injuries once treated, allow baseball players to return to their pre-injury athletic levels.
Working with board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic physicians greatly enhances the probability of a safe return to baseball. Our EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Sports Medicine and Athletic Trainers, alongside our Physical Therapy and Surgical Teams, have the knowledge, expertise and state-of-the-art approaches local athletes have come to depend upon for results.
Our goal is to help all baseball players and athletes Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better—no matter what level of play.
Schedule an appointment with an EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Specialist. Or, for more information about common baseball injuries and how they are treated, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.