After playing softball for 13 years, I’ve spent a lot of time covering collegiate and high school softball as an athletic trainer. With all of this exposure to the sport, I have noticed a reoccurrence of certain injuries within predominately the shoulder, knee, and ankle. Below are the top three most common softball injuries, their signs and symptoms, and potential treatment methods.

Softball Shoulder Injuries

Common Injuries

Overuse, Labral Tear, Rotator Cuff Tear

Occurrence

Overuse is the most common injury to the shoulder in softball. This could present as tendonitis, trigger points (knots) in the muscle tissue, or just general pain and fatigue. If the signs and symptoms of overuse are ignored, tears in the shoulder’s tissues start to occur. These tears typically occur in the labral or rotator cuff.

Signs & Symptoms

Overuse injuries often present with gradual onset of dull and achy pain, no history of specific incident of injury, general tenderness, and possible swelling.

Labral tears will present with deep, achy pain in the shoulder. Popping, clicking, grinding, and weakness are often felt with movement.

Rotator cuff tears will present with vague shoulder pain and decreased strength during specific movements of the arm. Clicking and popping may be heard or felt. Stiffness typically occurs with or without activity.

Treatment

Overuse injuries typically need rest along with a little therapy and strengthening exercises. Anti-inflammatories may also be used as recommended by your sports medicine professional. Wraps and bracing may be worn (such as a shoulder spica or sully brace) if the athlete needs to continue to play.

If a tear is present, there is a small possibility that it will completely heal without surgery. Non-invasive treatment includes complete rest, rehabilitation, and therapy. Other plans of treatment would be on a case by case basis as decided by your physician.

Softball Knee Injuries

Common Injuries

ACL Tear, Meniscal Tear

Occurrence

An ACL tear occurs when a player plants and twists the foot and leg. In softball, this can happen to a batter whose foot becomes stuck while the rest of her body is opening up as she swings or to a fielder who goes after a ball and doesn’t have time to properly set herself before making the throw and twists awkwardly on her planted foot.

A meniscal tear also involves a plant and twist mechanism but may include an applied outside force. This can happen the same way as an ACL but may also involve a collision with another player creating that outside force.

Signs and Symptoms

An ACL tear will be extremely painful at first. The athlete will hear/feel a pop or snap and then will be able to walk but the knee will feel lose and unstable. The joint will become stiff to move due to the major swelling that typically occurs.

A meniscal tear presents with deep, painful walking and the player may notice popping or clicking while using the stairs. The joint may be stiff causing decreased range of motion.

Treatment

In order to play competitively, surgery is about the only option athletes have after an ACL tear. Therapy and rehabilitation exercises will be needed before and after surgery to ensure the best results.

A meniscal tear doesn’t always require surgery. Stretching and therapy can be done to combat the discomfort the athlete may feel along with taking anti-inflammatories. Rest and ice are also helpful in conjunction with your doctor’s prescribed rehab and treatment plan.

Softball Ankle Sprains

Common Injuries

Lateral and High Ankle Sprains

Occurrence

A lateral ankle sprain occurs when an athlete lands or rolls onto the outside of the foot causing the ligaments to stretch. This can happen to a pitcher who lands on the outside of her foot, an outfielder who steps in a hole in the outfield, or a player sliding into a base and gets their foot caught.

A high ankle sprain is sustained when the foot is forced into extreme eversion (outward), forced into excessive dorsiflexion (upward), or a combination of both. This can happen to a runner whose sliding and jams her foot into the base at an awkward angle or to a fielder whose cleat gets caught in the ground as she moves for a ball.

Signs and Symptoms

A lateral and high ankle sprain will present with pain while walking with tenderness over the affected ligament. There may also be varying degrees of swelling and bruising depending on the severity of the injury.

Treatment

When it comes to twisted ankles in softball, the severity of the sprain determines the aggressiveness of the treatment. The typical protocol for an ankle sprain is rest, ice, and rehab exercises/therapy that focus on range of motion, strength, and stability

Tape or bracing may be required to keep the athlete participating while recovering. While tape may be helpful at first to apply extra compression and reduce swelling, it’s important that a player doesn’t bind their ankle in place with lace-up ankle braces or traditional taping methods in the long run. By taping and binding the ankle in place, they are working against tape while trying to run and jump – resulting in extra resistance on their joint that is actively trying to heal and/or perform.

Athletes recovering from a softball ankle injury should be wearing a hinged-cuff brace that provides full range of motion to allow the ankle to heal and regain strength while providing the stability needed to keep the ankle safe

Do you have any questions about your softball ankle injury? Let us know in the comments or send us a message and one of our certified athletic trainers will get back to you as soon as they can.

Post written by guest author Lauren Dybwad, ATC.

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If you were like me as an undergrad, then you remember having different preceptors show you how they like to do things in the clinic such as types of treatments, tapings, or bracings. No doubt most of what you learned as a student has stuck with you in your own practice as a now certified athletic trainer. The only problem is how do we know that what we are doing in the clinic is actually the best method of treatment/care?

You could argue that you have gotten great results in the past, and while that is probably true, how do you know that there isn’t something out there that works even better and would give you better results? I had this discussion with myself one day and I made a promise to myself I wouldn’t fall into a routine and not change how I practice for the next 30+ years of my career. I believe being in the medical profession we need to be willing to change with the new developments that come about. We owe that to our athletes and patients to ensure they are getting the absolute best care possible. If you feel like you might be stuck using the same techniques/methods that you were taught in undergrad, it could be time to shake up your routine and reevaluate what you were taught as a student athletic trainer.

New Advances in Equipment and Technology

The technology and equipment that are available now may have not been available yet to the preceptors that taught us in school. Technology and equipment are ever changing and improving. Because of this, we as athletic trainers need to be constantly aware as to what is available to us so we can use the best equipment and technology in our practice for our athletes. We owe them the best quality of care we can provide.

Better Understanding of How the Body Works

Due to the advances in technology, we also now have a better understanding of how the body works and what actually helps it versus what we used to think worked the best. Some of the things we have learned about the body actually show us that some of the treatments we thought were helping were actually a hindrance to the body.

An example would be lace up ankle braces. The original thinking was that the compression and support provided worked like taping, and while that is true, neither the tape or lace up braces are the best option for the ankle. It limits the natural range of motion of the ankle which in turn limits the athlete’s ability to fully perform. Both these options also loosen up within about a half hour (or less) of activity and they lose their support that prevents lateral (inversion and eversion) movements. This is why looking at hinged braces for your athletes is a better option for support of their ankles.

Learn Outside of Your Mentors

A lot of clinical practice has been passed down from mentor to mentee. This doesn’t always mean it’s the best practice; it’s just what we are used to. Our mentors might not have been exposed to better practice. This is not a knock on our mentors – I was blessed with some of the best mentors I could imagine but due to region and resources some mentors might not be aware of what new practices and technologies are out there.

New Advancements May Lead to Better Results

What’s the harm in trying something new if it could potentially have a better result than what you are currently doing? There is only one way to find out if something new out there is worth implementing into your practice and that’s by actually trying it out. If it doesn’t work as well as what you currently do then switch back to original practice or equipment.

Older Methods and TecHniques Are Still Valid

Just because a new technique or piece of equipment comes out and it’s better does not make previous technique or equipment invalid or wrong. Like all types of technology and equipment, it was the best thing and very useful for its time but now it is outdated and new discoveries bring better ways to treat injuries and conditions. I like to think of this as when flip-top, original cell phones were first invented. They were amazing and great at the time but no one today would ever dare to use one now when we have smartphones available to us. It is important to keep this in mind as a reminder that it’s okay to revise our practice and leave what we once did in the past. This is what research is for. It’s done to improve our clinical care so we are able to treat our athletes and patients in the best way possible.

When it comes to shaking up your routine as an athletic trainer, what do you do? Let me know in the comments! 

Post written by guest author Lauren Dybwad, ATC.

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Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

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Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

With the start of club season, it might not seem like your freshman year of college is quickly approaching. But let me be one of the many to tell you that it will be here before you know it. Aside from continuing to work hard at improving your game, there are plenty of things that you can be doing to help get yourself ready to take that big step from club to college volleyball.

Get to Know Your Teammates

After you’ve made your commitment, take some time to get to know the other freshmen that are coming in with you. Connect with each other on social media, text back and forth, check to see if you’re playing in the same tournaments so you can meet face to face – whatever works for you to establish some sort of relationship. This is a great way to relieve some of your nerves when you arrive on campus in the summer as well as helps your class start bonding long before you hit the court together. 

Learn More About the Game

One of the biggest differences between club and college is the speed of the game. The biggest thing you can do to help prepare yourself is to learn as much about volleyball as possible. I think too many times, freshmen come into the gym and are surprised by what they see and it takes them a month or two to get used to that speed. Talk to parents, coaches, and other mentors in your club to see what skills they feel like you could improve on a little more before college season starts. Utilize your existing club network to become the best player you can be before heading off to a new school with a new group of teammates. Above everything else, remember that volleyball is a game of mistakes (even at the highest levels!) so just keep playing. 

Manage Your Time

Your club may practice multiple times a week for 2-3 hours a night. It can be hard to manage all of your volleyball obligations in addition to school activities and homework but your schedule will only get crazier in college! The best thing you can do to help get ready is learn how to manage your time and prioritize the important items. Once you become a collegiate athlete, you will have to learn to manage your time wisely and effectively otherwise certain responsibilities will start to fall behind. In college, you will have practice, film sessions, weight lifting and study tables all in addition to your classroom studies. Learn how to manage your time wisely now!

Stay in Shape

While it’s important to celebrate your last club season and enjoy your last few days of high school, it’s equally as important that you don’t get super out of shape in the offseason. By eating right, keeping up with your strength and conditioning work, doing what you can to prevent injuries, and getting plenty of rest you won’t fall behind before you head to campus.  Pre-season conditioning and workouts can be brutal even if you are in shape, so doing whatever you can to help get the season started on the right foot is a must.

Keep Playing & Have Fun!

Transitioning from club to college volleyball can be an exciting, but stressful, time in your life. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, always remember how fun the game can be. This should never change, regardless of the level at which you are playing. Never forget why you started playing volleyball in the first place and why you love the game. The next thing you know you’ll be hanging up your jersey after your senior year, looking back at how fast the time flew by!

Guest post written by former collegiate volleyball athlete, Aubreigh Applegate.

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Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

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Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

Can you believe it’s almost time for another season to get started? It always seems that no matter how many years you play, the excitement for a new season never fades and then it’s over before you know it! Because practice time is so limited during volleyball season, it’s important to make the most of the time with your teammates and coaches while you can. By prepping for the season before it arrives you are not only bettering yourself as a player, but also doing your part in helping your team. As a college coach, here are the top three things I expect my players to do to prep for an upcoming season.

Be Prepared Physically

Most schools only have a short window to get their teams ready for the season. As a coach, the last thing that I want to do with my players when they come to campus is to take time out of practice to get them in shape. Make sure to schedule or find time to do your training and conditioning over the summer. No matter how hard it may be at the time, you will always thank yourself in the long run. If everyone on your team comes back in the gym in good physical shape, you will get more time with a ball to work on skills to make sure you are all ready on the court. 

Be on Top of Your Mental Game

Come to try outs and practices with the mentality that you want to get better. Speaking as a coach, the best players are not always the most skilled or athletic but those that come in day in and day out and want to get better. They aren’t going to settle for anything less than their best. They want to compete.

Set Your Priorities

What do you want to accomplish this season? Don’t let small things get in the way of those goals. Sure, you will set team goals, but it takes each individual team member working together and trying to better themselves to be successful. If you have a tournament, do what it takes to make sure you are physically and mentally ready. This means getting the proper amount of rest and fueling your body the right away – not staying up all night eating junk food. Not only are you setting your priorities, but you are doing your job to help your team.

In my opinion, volleyball is the epitome of a team sport. It will take each and every member of your team to help make your season successful so make sure you do your role to help your team get off to a successful season. Good luck and have fun!

Guest post written by Coach Ashlee Pritchard. 

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries