Spine Injuries on the Rise in Major League Baseball

Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi


baseball spine injuries

The All-Star break has come and gone, and while the Midsummer Classic typically serves as the longest break most ballplayers will receive during the season, plenty of big names will remain on the sidelines for the foreseeable future with injuries. Surprisingly, many of the players aren’t dealing with arm injuries; they’re plagued with back injuries.

Back Injuries Among Baseball Players

Three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw reinjured his back during a simulated game last week, and other big names like David Wright, Trayce Thompson, and Lucas Duda are all currently battling their own back problems. For others like Giants second baseman Joe Panik, he missed a significant amount of time last season due to a spine injury. Panik’s back injury is probably the most interesting from a medical standpoint, because it developed out of a different injury.

Panik originally missed time with a hip injury, but his hip soreness caused him to alter his movement and his gait. Panik tried battling through discomfort, but because he was still dealing with altered movements from the hip injury, his spine pain only worsened until it began affecting his ability to swing a bat and field the ball.

“When you limit range of motion in one area, another area of your body has to take some of that stress, said Giants’ head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner. “I think that’s what happened to Joe.”

Problem Across The League

A look at the disabled list shows that the Giants aren’t the only team battling spine injuries. 12 percent of injuries that result in missed time are due to back problems. The reason for these injuries are typically the result of one movement that’s unique to the sport – the swing.

“Swinging a bat is not a normal activity,” said Dr. Joshua Dines, an assistant team doctor with the New York Mets, who noted that injuries like disc issues, muscle strains and stress fractures are becoming all too common in today’s game.

Hitting is often the cause of the injury due to the processes involved. To hit a ball squarely a player must use a combination of movements from both the upper and lower body that must be controlled and coordinated by the player’s core and lower back. It also involves a powerful twisting and forceful rotations from the lower back, shoulders and hips. The spine is the backbone of this process, and if it fails to get the rest of the body in line, a player isn’t going to be able to connect. And even if they do, the amount of swings oftentimes catches up with a player.

“Players may only take ten swings in a game but there may be 100 swings a day when you count those off a tee, in the cage and batting practice,” said Groeschner.

Coaches try to give players a break from batting practice or mix in the occasional day off to give players some time off, and that’s what the trainers recommend for coaches and players to keep in mind at lower levels. Even though kids aren’t playing a game every day, oftentimes kids will practice five days a week and play games on the weekend in high school or at the collegiate level, so don’t overwork your spine during the season. It’s also important to work in some strength and conditioning exercises to ensure your spine and the rest of your body stay healthy.

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