Play ball: Common baseball injuries

Posted at 4:31 PM, Mar 29, 2016

Opening day has come and gone, and baseball season is in full swing — But, with baseball season comes game-related injuries. Whether a player is swinging hard at a fast ball, or sliding into second base, hand and wrist injuries are common and vary in severity.

“The most common injuries we see are hamate hook fractures and mallet injuries, says T. Greg Sommerkamp MD, a hand surgeon with TriHealth Hand Surgery Specialists

Common injuries: Hamate hook fractures and mallet injuries
Hamate hook fractures occur in the hamate bone in the wrist, and are common in racket and club sports, as well as baseball.

"If you had a multiple choice question asking for the most common hand and/or and wrist injury in baseball, it would be a hamate hook fracture," Sommerkamp said. 

When a player is at bat, during the follow-through on the swing, the butt end of the bat handle can strike the hamate hook and shear it off. With prompt surgical excision, players can be back in the lineup in four weeks or less.

“This is especially common in the minor leagues,” Sommerkamp said. “Minor leaguers are working, gutting it out and swinging at nearly anything, so they experience it more than major leaguers.” 

Mallet injuries, including tendon injuries and fractures, are also common.

“They can occur when the ball hits the tip of the finger, causing the tip of the finger to buckle down,” Sommerkamp said. “Where the ball impacts the finger, there can be a chip fracture at the top of that joint attached to the tendon.” 

If a player does experience a mallet injury, a majority of the time they are treated with splints — only occasionally do they require surgery.

Additional injuries

Sommerkamp explains that catchers experience a lot of impact at the base of the index and middle fingers and into the thumb, and can suffer from vibration white finger, where toward the end of the 7th inning, their fingers are white..

This is caused by vasospasm, or the blood vessels in the fingers shrinking throughout the game due to the pressure of the ball, which reduces blood flow. 

Additional injuries can occur when runners slide into a stationary base with their fingers extended out, or when outfielders collide with an outfield wall or fence, causing hand and wrist injuries. 

Other common baseball injuries include:
• Scaphoid fractures
• Trapezial ridge fractures
• Middle phalanx fractures
• PIP joint fracture
• Triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tear 

Injury prevention
While many injuries are impact related, there are some prevention methods being taken to help reduce injuries. Batting gloves designed with anatomical relief zones in the finger flexion creases, lead to no extra muscle work for the forearms and hands when gripping a bat. 

For catchers, these gloves offer pressure relief pads in high impact zones, helping not only prevent, but rehab injuries as well.

Make an appointment:
TriHealth Hand Surgery Specialists
Ohio: (513) 961-4263
Kentucky: (859) 344-1150