Just like the rest of us, professional and college baseball
players can't just run out on the field at the beginning of the season and play
hard. They can get injured just as easily as you if they don't follow a
pre-training fitness plan.
"The season is long for amateur and professional baseball
players, and that's why we set up fitness plans for players in the preseason --
to avoid injury later," says Rob Woodall, assistant athletic trainer for
baseball and rehabilitation coordinator for Guilford College in Greensboro,
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
"The most likely injury in training for baseball is in the
shoulder, whether you're a pitcher or playing a field position," says Dave
Werner, head athletic trainer for baseball at the University of Florida in
Gainesville. "What we tend to see is that about 30% of baseball injuries
are in the quadriceps and hamstring area of the legs, but at least 70% of the
injuries are in the shoulder."
Throwing the ball, says Goodall, sends a tremendous amount of
twisting force, called torque, into the area of the shoulder called the rotator
Werner and his colleagues prepare their players for that kind
of stress with general fitness training and some special shoulder exercises
that are specific to sports with overhead arm movements, such as swimming and tennis.
But a solid training regimen will first focus on four fitness
areas, say Werner and Goodall. Here is their general recipe for injury
avoidance on the field:
The first thing to get going on is a cardiovascular fitness
plan, says Goodall. That begins with 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular
exercise every day, such as jogging, bike riding or using
"Once we've established a solid base of cardiovascular
fitness, which I like to think of as the base of a fitness pyramid, then we
start working toward the more specific exercises that form the top of the
pyramid," says Werner. "That narrower training includes sprints,
starting with 400-meter exercises and then working up to shorter and faster
exercises, such as the 200- or even 100-meter sprint."
This includes 10 to 15 minutes of warm up exercises and pre-
and post-game stretching activities.
"This stretching doesn't have to be anything fancy, but it
needs to be done," says Werner. "A lot of people don't put enough
effort into pre- and post-game stretching. But these stretching exercises,
especially post-game, are really important to keep those stressed areas
flexible and strong. That's some of the best protection against injury you can
Again, like the stretching, this is the same type of strength
training that anyone would do for an overall, total-body workout.
"Baseball players concentrate on upper-body strength for
throwing power," says Woodall. "But just like anyone else in training,
they usually lift weights three or four times a week with a day off between
sessions to allow the body to rebuild and rest."