Preventing A Common Low Back Injury in Baseball Players

Youth sports are on the rise. Especially here in Florida and especially baseball of all sports. With playing baseball or any sport year-round, athletes tend to become more susceptible to certain injuries, aches, and pains.

Instead of getting many different movement patterns from other sports and activities, they get the same exact stresses repeatedly from playing the same sport year-round. This can be a good thing because you get good at these certain movements, but also creates a higher chance of having an overuse sports injury.

In this article, we are going to highlight one of the more common baseball injuries to the low back for youth athletes who played baseball year-round!

This article will mainly discuss how to prevent a pars fracture. For a more in-depth look into the injury, please refer to another recent blog of ours.

Baseball player swinging a bat with a low back fracture
A pars fracture is becoming more common for young baseball players who perform repetitive movements that extend and rotate the low back.

A pars fracture or “spondylolysis” is becoming very common in youth and teenage baseball players because of the high impacts to the low back during certain aspects of the sport. It is unfortunately getting too common in other sports such as gymnastics, football, tennis, and weightlifting too (1). Compressive movements such as extension and rotation tend to cause excess stress on the joints of our low back. Baseball motions such as swinging at a bat and throwing a ball are heavy in extension and rotation in our lumbar spine (2).

Extension and rotation are not necessarily bad movements overall, but typically Athletes are not doing the strength and rehabilitation they need to keep their muscles performing optimally and protecting against injuries like this.

Preventing Against a Pars Fracture

The best way to prevent against this injury isn’t to simply stop playing baseball. It is to increase core muscle activation, low back stability, and to have good hip mobility and strength! This allows the baseball player to control those extension and rotation forces with their muscles and prevent their bony anatomy from crashing into each other.

Many athletes that only play one sport often have faulty (uncoordinated or incorrect) movement patterns that do not allow them to use their hips properly. If you cannot use your hips properly, this will set you up for other injuries including low back pain. Therefore being able to properly utilize the range of motion in your hips will limit the amount of moving that your low back has to go through!

Parents and coaches know that getting your core stronger will help with athletic performance in injury prevention. However teaching kids to do sit ups and crunches is not the answer (2). Proper core activation Will strengthen the abdominal muscle, obliques, and other low back muscles while causing very little strain on the low back.

Spine Location of a low back pars fracture
The typical location of a pars fracture in a young athlete is just off-center in the spine. Near where the vertebrae come together and form joints.

To prevent this injury, make sure you have strong core muscles that can resist forces and that you have mobile hips that can provide stability during rotation!

If you are wondering how to diagnose a pars fracture, make sure to read our other article which goes into this sports injury in more detail!

Treating a Spondy if You Develop One

If you currently have a pars fracture, you should know that a full recovery within 3 months using conservative care is highly likely (1)! But you should seek care soon as the injury does have the potential to progress.

No two cases of spondylolysis or a pars fracture are the exact same, so treatment would always be specific to the patient in front of us. However, research does heavily support the use of specific rehab exercise when it comes to this sports injury of the low back. Exercises designed to improve core muscle strength to create better intra-abdominal pressure and low back stability are recommended by the research (1).

Other treatment can be directed to the hip and pelvis muscles as they often become tight and weak with this specific sports injury. Again, using the hips and glutes properly will take strain off of the low back.  Therapy should begin immediately after the diagnosis of a pars fracture is even suspected. Spinal manipulation (chiropractic adjustment) are completely safe for a pars fracture, as is soft-tissue therapy, and specific rehab exercises.

Rest is certainly not the cure! There are therapies for this low back injury that will allow for the youth baseball player to recover quicker than just resting! So do not just think that sidelining your athlete for a couple months is the safer alternative than conservative treatment from a sports injury specialist. Rest does not rehab the injured area and will not get your athlete back on the field sooner! Rehab will also help protect against future injury while resting will not!

Aside from low back injuries, we have helped other patients and youth athletes recover from foot and knee pain, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, headaches, shoulder and elbow pain, muscle strains, and tendonitis! It is our goal to get you out of pain quickly and rehabilitate your injury so that you can get back to enjoying the sports that you love with your teammates!

If you know someone in the Saint Johns, Florida area (Durbin Crossing, Aberdeen, RiverTown, Julington Creek Plantation, Beachwalk, Silverleaf) who is not able to live the active lifestyle that they want because of an injury or pain and could benefit from our thorough approach and comprehensive care, please share this post with them or send them our way!

We are conveniently located just south of Jacksonville in between CR 210 and Race Track Road, near where St. Johns Parkway and Longleaf Pine intersect! Right across the street from Patriot Oaks Academy in the 32259 zip code! Only 4 minutes from Durbin Park! We are committed to offering the best chiropractic care near you!

We help active adults & youth athletes get out of pain quickly & rehabilitate their injuries so they can get back to doing what they love pain-free!

We are a proud supporter of the Creeks Baseball Club, Patriot Oaks Academy, Swiss Point, Freedom Crossing Academy, and other youth sports programs!

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7001669/pdf/JSM2020-9235958.pdf
  2. Movement Over Maxes by Zach Decant

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