With the arrival of spring comes a new season of baseball, softball, track, lacrosse, tennis, and golf.
Professional ballplayers spend weeks in spring training preparing for the season, but for many kids the spring sports season starts without any serious practice. Some kids have not been active during the winter, while others have been playing only indoor sports. Their bodies may not be quite ready for “full steam ahead” play.
Dr. Thomas DeBerardino, UConn Health Center orthopaedic surgeon and team physician for UConn athletic teams, says kids need to get into shape for throwing, hitting, pitching and fielding over time. Some athletes try to throw too much or too hard when they first start back.
Parents (and coaches) need to encourage daily pre-activity warm ups and stretching followed by light throwing to prepare the body to increase activity and intensity over several weeks, rather than days.
Kids need to learn proper throwing mechanics, which will not only improve efficiency but also help 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 helps prevent fatigue.
Remember to use ice as an anti-inflammatory, as well as ibuprofen. And if shoulders or elbows are already hurting, try a slower spring re-entry into throwing and pitching.
What children can do to prevent injuries:
- Be in proper condition to play the sport; have a preseason physical exam.
- Wear appropriate protective gear.
- Avoid playing when very tired or in pain.
- Make warm ups and cool downs part of your routine. Exercises, such as stretching or light jogging, can help minimize the chances of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury. They also make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible.
- Cool down exercises loosen the muscles that have tightened during exercise.