David Price Warming Up

Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price has been suffering from a left elbow strain since February 28th. It’s a familiar pattern for Price, who told reporters he experiences some type of elbow soreness every year in spring training. But that’s no reason to take an injury lightly. With millions of sports-lovers playing baseball and softball this spring, injury prevention and awareness is key to a healthy season. Julie Ruane, Nurse Practitioner in the Division of Sports Medicine at BIDMC, has advice on throwing injuries and what you can do to prevent them.

“Elbow and shoulder injuries can develop acutely or gradually over time,” says Ruane. “There are a variety of reasons why injuries can occur, such as poor body mechanics, improper warm-up, trying to throw too hard or over-throwing and fatigue.”

Ruane adds that the same types of throwing injuries that are common in professional athletes are common in casual athletes, too. “Preventing injury by focusing on flexibility and strengthening is an important start. Many of us ‘weekend warriors’ participate in our sport one or two times a week. Conditioning the body on days you aren’t competing may help prevent injury.”

This is particularly true in spring, which can present a unique set of challenges for athletes in our New England climate. Low temperatures and the tendency to be less active in winter can lead to muscle soreness, sprains and a variety of other injuries.

“If you have a throwing injury or pain that is limiting your physical activities, you should immediately stop what you are doing,” says Ruane. “The term no pain, no gain does not apply here. Rest your shoulder for at least a few days. Use ice and oral anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). If you have a question about whether it is safe for you to take an NSAID, check with your healthcare provider.”

So how do you know if you have an injury? Throwing injuries often occur gradually, causing increased pain in your shoulder or elbow during or after throwing. These types of injuries will limit your range of motion, decrease throwing velocity and can make your aim less accurate. However, severe injuries can occur suddenly and are often accompanied by a pop, tearing sensation or sharp pain.

“If your pain does not improve over the course of several days, you should get checked by your doctor. In the case of an acute injury, where there is a pop or sharp stabbing pain, you should get examined as quickly as possible.”

The good news is that many throwing injuries don’t require surgery. Rest, ice, compression and elevation (remember R.I.C.E.) and physical therapy are often all it takes for a full recovery. As is the case with David Price, the key to physical therapy is taking the right amount of time to strengthen your body so you can handle throwing again.

“Physical therapy is a vital part of returning to your active lifestyle. In many cases, you can’t simply jump back in to full activity without treatment to help prevent re-injury. Many of our patients go to physical therapy to focus on flexibility, range of motion and strengthening, including postural work followed by a conditioning program or throwing progression. Formal physical therapy can assist in the rehabilitation. Once back on the playing field, a maintenance program may keep you healthy.”

So be safe this spring, have fun and don’t push yourself too far too fast.