Baseball Pitching: How To Prevent Rotator Cuff Injury

Learn how baseball players can avoid a rotator cuff injury.

Dr. Keith Meister, Medical Director of Sports Medicine at Medical Center Arlington and Team Physician for the Texas Rangers, shares more tips for parents and baseball players on our blog today. Find out what Dr. Meister recommends for players who want to avoid a rotator cuff injury.

Question: How do I injure my rotator cuff while throwing and what can I do to treat it and prevent further injury?

Answer: As the baseball season begins, we often hear discussions concerning the health of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is an envelope of tendinous tissue that surrounds the capsule of the shoulder joint made up from the muscles surrounding the scapula (or shoulder blade). The primary function of the rotator cuff is to provide dynamic stability to the ball-and-socket portion of the shoulder.

In the pitcher or any position player, pain and dysfunction can come from processes ranging from inflammation only to complete tendon tears, which are rare. In baseball, acute injury is rare. Most commonly, symptoms begin slowly as a result of the stressful act of throwing. These complaints from throwers can be present in the front, top and back side of the shoulder during all phases of the throwing motion, but most commonly during the late cocking and acceleration phases (prior to ball release).

Initial evaluation usually consists of a thorough pitching history (evaluation of pitch counts, pitch types, throwing mechanics and conditioning), physical examination and routine shoulder X-rays. MRI scans are a useful tool in the diagnosis of injury, but not always needed in the initial stages of evaluation and treatment.

Initial treatment in the thrower usually consists of anti-inflammatory medications, short-term rest from throwing and, most importantly, physical therapy. Restoration of normal shoulder range of motion and strength are critical to the elimination of symptoms. Injections of corticosteroid are occasionally used to help decrease inflammation.

Additionally, biomechanical analysis of the throwing motion, available in our lab at TMI Sports Performance, can be a very useful tool in the improvement in performance and reduction in injury risk particularly in the young thrower.

Surgical treatment is rarely needed for this diagnosis and, when necessary, generally involves minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques to return the athlete to his or her highest level of function.

Dr. Keith Meister is the Director of Sports Medicine at Medical Center Arlington and is in his sixth season as the team physician for the Texas Rangers. To learn more about Sports Medicine at MCA, please visit us online. Please call 1-855-868-6262 for a physician referral.

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