Many patients come to my San Diego orthopedic surgery practice with injuries they have recently read or heard about. One question that often follows is why particular sports are more likely to give rise to certain injuries. Baseball, for instance, seems to spawn a high number of shoulder and elbow injuries; basketball produces many back injuries; and of course the NFL is the home of the concussion.
The immediate answer is self-apparent, of course: Different sports require different movements. Of the three big American sports, however, baseball is unique in that there are few direct collisions with other bodies. (This squeaker of a World Series ending notwithstanding.) As a result, baseball remains an excellent source of study on the ways we can injure ourselves through repetition alone.
Injuries endemic to baseball tend to involve the muscles of the arm, neck and shoulder. This is because of the simple reason that much of the sport involves swinging, throwing and extending. Recently I came across this ESPN page which provides an outstanding overview of why these injuries arise so often. My favorite quote covers the preponderance of elbow injuries among pitchers:
The injury label can be as generic as elbow tendinitis, which simply means inflammation of some tendon around the elbow. For throwers, the most commonly affected tendons are those located on the medial or inner aspect of the elbow. It is here that the tendons of the wrist flexors (which bend the wrist down toward the ground) and the forearm pronators (which rotate the forearm from a palm-up to a palm-down position) attach, hence the term flexor-pronator group. The flexor-pronator muscles provide protection to the elbow joint by countering the torque produced during pitching, so lingering problems here can put the elbow at risk.
Of course you don’t have to be a pitcher to acquire an elbow injury such as lateral or medial epicondylitis, or even cubital tunnel syndrome. The wisest course of action for any stress injury is rest and recovery. But when the body is unable to heal itself adequately from an injury, sometimes the body needs a little extra help in the form of medication, bracing, or soft tissue manipulation techniques. On occasion elbow surgery performed by an expert orthopedic surgeon is necessary to achieve maximal recovery and return to your activity of interest.