Sports are categorized according to the amount of contact and their degree of strenuousness. Softball is a Limited Contact sport because contact with other athletes or inanimate objects doesn’t occur frequently or inadvertently.
In researching this topic, I found that softball is one of the safest sports available to children and adults.
What Is the Range of Danger in Sports?
Collision or Contact sports are the most dangerous category. They include football, ice hockey, and rodeo. Riding an angry bull or body checking your opponent in ice hockey has a high probability of personal injury.
At the other end of the spectrum are Non-contact and Non-strenuous sports. Golf is the supreme example of this category. I can’t imagine injuring myself unless an errant ball slams into me or I fall out of the golf cart.
The full list of sports by category shows the three other levels of activity and strenuousness between these two extremes.
What Kind of Injuries Occur in Softball?
Softball’s category, Limited Contact, lies next to the Collision or Contact category. In other words, there is still an above-average risk of injury. The top five injuries sustained in softball are:
- Ankle sprains
- Knee injuries
- Injuries to the upper leg
- Shoulder injuries
When Do Ankle Sprains Occur?
Ankle sprains account for 10% of all injuries. Most are due to sliding into a base and, frequently, due to poor form on the part of the player. Training in the proper technique for sliding into the base will help reduce the number of ankle sprains. Breakaway bases which come loose upon impact can also help.
The proper treatment for ankle sprains is the RICE protocol. Rest the ankle. Ice it. Compression will reduce the swelling. Elevate the foot to assist blood flow.
Why Do Knees Experience Injuries?
A great deal of stress is placed on knees in softball. Running the bases involves quick starts, sudden stops, sharp angle turns, and the occasional collision. Each of these can result in an injury.
The most common injury is a tear to either the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or the meniscus.
The ACL is one of many ligaments in the knee that control and deflect the stress placed upon the knee. It achieves this by limiting the range of motion of the knee joint. When too much force is transmitted to the knee and forces the knee out of its normal position, the ACL tears.
There are two menisci in each knee. A meniscus is a crescent-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a buffer between the shin and thigh bones. It allows the bones to rub together without injuring either bone. A torn meniscus results from twisting the knee forcefully.
Options for curing these tears include surgery, but every effort should be made to allow the body to heal itself. Therapy, braces, and rest should be your first option. Once a surgeon removes the meniscus, it’s gone. A surgical patch to the ACL is no guarantee that the knee will return to 100% functionality.
How Do Upper Leg Injuries Occur?
A common injury to the upper leg is a hamstring tear, the muscles, and tendons on the back of the leg. The most common factor is a previous injury to the hamstring. Absent that, an inadequate warmup routine, dehydration, and muscle fatigue can lead to a tear.
Another upper leg injury is a quadriceps tendon tear. Quadriceps tendons are on the front of the leg. Sports with running create a higher risk of these tears. The injury can occur when the athlete falls directly on the knee or other direct force is applied such as sliding into base.
Proper warmup and sliding techniques, adequate hydration during exertion, and rest between periods of exertion will reduce the risk of these tears.
Who Experiences Shoulder Injuries in Softball?
Pitchers, by and large, suffer the most shoulder injuries in softball. While anyone throwing the ball places stress upon the shoulder joint and tendons, the constant use of the shoulder by pitchers increases their risk.
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons which attach the scapula (shoulder blade) to the humerus (upper arm bone). In addition, three tendons in the shoulder connect bone to bone. An injury to any of these can occur with strenuous activity.
The RICE protocol is successful in treating mild injuries. Unfortunately, severe injuries will require surgery.
Preventive measures include proper warmup technique, limiting the number of pitches a pitcher is allowed in a game, and adequate rest between periods of exertion.
How Do Concussions Occur?
A concussion is classified as a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). When a sudden force is exerted on the head, the brain remains in place due to inertia. This causes the internal surface of the skull to collide with the brain. Additionally, the brain then collides with the opposite surface of the skull when the head snaps back into place.
Concussions in softball occur primarily during collisions at home base when a runner is scoring or in the outfield when two players go for the ball at the same time. Concussions can also occur with direct contact between the head and the ball such as from a pitch or when a ground ball bounces.
Symptoms include headache, confusion, vision impairment, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination, and more. The more severe the concussion, the more serious the symptoms.
All concussions should be taken seriously and a medical professional should be consulted. Mild cases are successfully treated with rest and reduced activity, both mental and physical. A gradual increase in activity levels without a return of symptoms will guide you to health.
Softball is classified as a Limited Contact sport. It’s important to remember that injuries occur in practice as well as during a game. Precautions should be taken the team suits anytime up. While injuries are an inevitable part of playing sports, best practices should be observed during training, warmups, and play to minimize injuries.