There's no crying in softball...but my shoulder does really hurt.


| 3 Comments

Your alarm goes off before the sun comes up and you drag yourself out of bed. It's snowing, you're freezing, and now you're going to be stuck outside in the snow for the next three or four hours. Welcome to softball season. I grew up playing softball, so I was no stranger to the art of layering; however, this also meant I was no stranger to injuries. Fractured ankles, twisted knees, and of course: whatever in God's name happened to be wrong with my arm that day. Whether it was my shoulder, my elbow, my wrist, or all three (as usual), my arm never seemed to be working right.  The cold ruined whatever function I had in my shoulder, but there's no crying in softball - you get out there and play anyway. Consequently, my days as a pitcher were limited, but I know that it is no easy nor painless task. For years, it was said that "windmill" pitching (the standard in fast-pitch softball) was a natural body motion. However, research has proved that isn't true. More and more information is coming out about the risks of windmill pitching.

            As described in Columbia Sports Journalism, it has long been believed that softball pitchers exert less strain on their arm than baseball players. This is simply not true.  Research shows that while little league baseball puts a lot of stress on the elbow, softball exerts more strain on the shoulder, rotator cuff, and bicep. The stress of windmill pitching is also greater overall than overhand pitching. It is also important to note that baseball has limits on the number of pitches that can be thrown without having a certain number of days off afterwards, while softball does not.

            According to Phys.org when high-level softball pitchers were tested, the muscle force exerted on a typical pitch was much higher than that of a baseball pitcher. In fact, it showed most force was exerted between phases 5 and 6 (see image). In addition, phys.org stated that on a typical tournament weekend, a softball pitcher could throw 12-15 times as many pitches in three days as a baseball pitcher would in one night with a 4-5 day break in between. Combining these factors, it is almost alarming how much more exertion a softball pitcher's muscles must put forth as compared to those of a baseball pitcher.

 

            Today, it is clear that windmill-style pitching is much more stressful on the arm than typical overhand pitching. However, there are many other dangerous habits within the world of softball. A major problem for many players is the dangers that come with throwing "sidearm," or throwing from around the side rather than over the top. I have had many issues with this style for much of my life, but I suppose that is a blog post for a different day. Still, I think for now I will continue to stay away from returning to my former not-so-much-glory as a softball pitcher.

3 Comments

Courtney, though I don't play softball, I have always been amazed at the speed and strength needed for a softball pitch. When I have seen girls play, I just think, "How can they do that!?" It is extremely important to take care of your body when playing sports. Sports related injuries are everywhere these days. Using the same arm over and over again in such a forceful way is sure to cause strain and possibly injury. Here is a website that gives tips on how to prevent and treat injuries related to softball pitching. http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/softball-injury-prevention.aspx

I hope every baseball player can read this and understand the difficulties of softball pitching because people always argue "it's a natural movement". I also played softball and I played short stop. Although I don't know first hand the pain pitching causes your arm, I throw 100% side arm and played almost year round. Just warming up will make my elbow throb and there's nothing that will stop it (ice, rest, icy hot). My elbow has actually gotten to the point where I can just continuously make it crack loudly. Here's a link that shows some info on tendonitis (one of the most common elbow injuries in softball).
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis

Alyssa, my arm is the same way! Being sidearm has definitely taken its toll on both my shoulder and especially my elbow, and I often wonder about the long-term effects of this. I'm concerned about pain and other problems, such as arthritis that I may have when I am older. My arm would hurt continuously after throwing an excessive amount (especially in cold weather....aka all season long in PA), and just when I thought it was better, I'd throw one ball from third to first and it would be throbbing again. I noticed that when my softball team took a weeklong trip to Florida to play at Disney, my arm hurt significantly less. While I know that being sidearm took a huge toll on my arm, I am also very aware that the cold made it drastically worse, no matter how much I warmed up or took care of it. I often wonder if I perhaps had a case of tendonitis that simply wouldn't heal. Thank you for the webMD link about it!

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