Training and Conditioning for Softball Players

Kessler Offers Tips for a Safe Softball Season

Baseball may be America’s favorite sport, but softball—with more than 40 million Americans of all ages and fitness levels participating in organized leagues—is the country’s most popular recreational pastime to play.

With its low incidence of severe injury, it is generally considered to be one of the safest. However, as with any sport, there is the potential for injury that with a little preparation and knowledge could otherwise be prevented.

Nearly all softball-related injuries are caused by collisions, improper sliding techniques, and lack of conditioning.

A successful fitness-conditioning routine must incorporate some form of aerobic activity—exercise that increases the blood circulation and heart rate for an extended period of time (e.g., walking, jogging, swimming, or jumping rope) and strength-training exercises using free weights, machines, or resistance bands to help increase bone strength and muscle tone. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests training each muscle group in the arms, legs, and back two to three times a week with about 48 hours of rest between in order for muscles to repair and grow.

“Players who are generally sedentary during the colder months should not expect to get in shape just by playing ball,” said physical therapist Carrie Schilling, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, New Jersey. “So before they pick up their bat and ball, they should prepare their bodies with a well-rounded fitness training program.”

In addition to engaging in overall conditioning, Schilling recommends the following to help further reduce the incidence of a softball-related injury:

* Do stretching and warm-up exercises for 10 to 15 minutes prior to play, as well as between innings. Stretch all the major muscle groups in the arms, legs, hips and back and target those muscles most likely to be used during a game, such as the shoulders.
* Use breakaway or safety bases that “pop” off when a player comes in contact with them. Or enforce a no-sliding rule when stationary bases are used.
* Always use proper sliding techniques. According to the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine, sliding into the base causes more than 70 percent of recreational softball injuries.
* Wear approved batting helmets with protective ear-flaps on both sides when batting and base running. Baseball caps should be worn underneath the helmets to avoid possible skin irritation.
* Catchers should wear a helmet, mask with throat guard, chest protector, and shin guards at all times. Masks are to be worn by anyone warming up a pitcher.
* Inspect the field before a game begins for any potential tripping hazards.
* Players must not throw their bat nor stand too close to the batter.
* No jewelry should be worn, except medical bracelets and necklaces kept underneath clothing.

Most importantly, everyone should use common sense before, during, and after play to help make the game a more rewarding and enjoyable experience.

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