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Play Ball- Be Safe From Rotator Injury: June 28, 2013

A love of baseball developed early for Seth Hayes.

“I was throwing baseball, from a young kid; throwing curve balls.  They tell you not to do it because your tendons and ligaments haven’t fully developed. I thought, like a lot of 12, 13 year olds, I know everything I’ll just keep doing what I want,” says Hayes.

The idea of a sports injury didn’t sink in until Hayes luck struck out.

“I was pitching in an All-Star game as a senior in high school and I tore my supraspinatus – overuse injury,” says Hayes.

More than 100,000 kids are treated for a baseball-related injury each year. And by the time these junior leaguers grow up, they are halfway to a major league sports injury. 

“As the player goes through the throwing motion it’s going to create repetitive micro trauma. And in a child, it can lead to fractures of their growth plate and serious long-term problems. And in older people, it can cause long- term tendon problems,” says Dr. Fletcher Reynolds, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Playing it safe is now part of the game. Coaches are incorporating more stretching and fine-tuning of the supportive, rotator muscles. It helps prevent injury now and in the long run.

“Coaches in today’s sports world are doing specific exercises to work on the rotator cuff muscles and the smaller muscles. They’ve gone to smaller band type exercises, light weights or rotation movements of the shoulder,” says Dr. Reynolds.

Limiting the number of pitches a young player can throw also protects their future.

“Every little league and youth sports baseball now has pitch counts or maximum innings these kids are allowed to pitch in weeks or during a tournament to try and prevent long term damage,” says Dr. Reynolds.

Hayes learned early and is constantly playing catch-up with shoulder rehab.

“Many years later, playing baseball down here just kind of aggravated it again. So the rest of my shoulder is going to adapt and kind of start to compensate for the weaker muscle,” says Hayes.

The best advice for players and parents is to not run afoul in the first place.