It is a common belief that windmill softball pitching is less stressful and more natural on the shoulder than baseball overhand pitching, resulting in fewer shoulder injuries.
While there are fundamental differences between men’s and women’s muscular strength, weight, height, and pitching motions. Research has shown that the forces acting on the arm during a fast-pitch delivery are comparable to those of overhand pitching.
Softball pitchers also tend to pitch at very high volumes during tournaments, games, and practices. This combination of repetitive, high-level stress through the shoulder at high volumes drastically increases a pitcher’s risk for a shoulder injury.
Today we will look at:
- Common Causes of Shoulder Injuries
- Commonly Seen Shoulder Injuries
- Three Ways To Prevent Injury
- Two Exercises for Shoulder Injuries and Shoulder Injury Prevention
Common Causes of Shoulder Injuries
Softball teams often have one to two starting pitchers who will pitch most of the games throughout the season. Research has shown that softball pitchers have thrown up to 1,200 pitches within a three-day weekend tournament. It is also not uncommon for softball pitchers to pitch year-round with the minimal time taken off from throwing, which results in high levels of repetitive strain through the joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, and shoulder muscles.
Lack of Strength/Conditioning and Performance Training
Many softball pitchers do not perform proper sport-specific strength training to prepare themselves to handle the high volume and loads required throughout the season. This lack of structured strength training can result in decreased shoulder dynamic stability and increased risk of injury and pain.
In our technologically advanced world, time spent in front of a screen is at an all-time high. When leaning forward to focus on a screen (phone, tablet, or laptop) for prolonged periods, the poor posture often leads to rounded shoulders, flexed upper back, and neck extension positions. These positions can lead to tightness in the anterior chest muscles and weakness in the shoulder and scapular muscles which can largely impact a pitcher’s mechanics.
Poor pitching mechanics can result in increased strain through the shoulder if the pitcher is not effectively or efficiently utilizing her hips and trunk to generate power during the pitch.
Commonly Seen Shoulder Injuries
A large number of injuries in softball pitchers are seen in the first six weeks of the season and are classified as non-serious (less than ten days of playing time missed). Some common shoulder injuries seen in softball pitchers include:
Tendonitis is defined as inflammation of the tendon, which often occurs due to repetitive stress over time, resulting in small tears within the tendon. Bicipital and rotator cuff tendonitis are commonly seen in softball pitchers.
The labrum is a cartilage ring that goes around the shoulder socket and helps provide increased stability at that joint. It is commonly seen that the labrum can become strained or, in more severe cases, torn with high repetitions and overuse at the shoulder. Common signs are pain, loss of shoulder range of motion, and/or popping, clicking, grinding, and catching in the shoulder.
A muscular strain, sometimes called a “pulled muscle”, is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Minor strains may include an overstretch to a muscle or tendon, while more severe strains can result in partial or complete tears in these tissues.
Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff is pinched between the arm bone and the top of the shoulder blade. This pinch or rubbing can cause pain, inflammation, and swelling.
See Other Similar Injuries:
- Tennis Shoulder
- Tennis Elbow
- Golf Injuries
- Sports Injuries
- Stretching to prevent and improve injuries
Three Ways To Prevent Shoulder Injury
1. Proper Strength, Conditioning, and Performance Training
Proper sports-specific training is critical in maximizing performance while reducing the risk of injury. Training also helps improve the body’s capacity to sustain the high loads and repetition required in softball.
Prone external rotation at 90/90
Ball release and catch at 90/90
2. Proper Shoulder Warm-up Prior to Pitching
Proper arm care and priming of the rotator cuff and scapular muscles prior to pitching can help reduce the risk of injury. A good warm-up can be as simple as a well-thought-out, structured banded routine that is less than five minutes.
3. Do Not Play Through the Pain
Pain is the body’s warning signal that something is wrong. Playing through pain can result in future recurrent, more severe injuries.
Don’t play in pain – WE CAN HELP!
Thank you for reading the 3 Ways to Prevent Common Shoulder Injuries For Softball Pitchers. We hope it has helped you understand a little more about what causes shoulder injuries. To learn more about other conditions and how we treat different types of common sports injuries, please visit our Sports Injuries page.
Check out what injuries we commonly treat and what to expect during an appointment.
Lear A, Patel N. Softball pitching and injury. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2016;15(5):336-341. doi:10.1249/jsr.0000000000000293
Minetos PD, Trojan JD, Brown SM, Mulcahey MK. Softball pitching mechanics and shoulder injuries: A narrative review. Sports Biomechanics. 2020:1-13. doi:10.1080/14763141.2020.1757142
Doyle FM. Review of the windmill pitch: Biomechanics and injuries. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2004;3(2):53-62. doi:10.1016/s0899-3467(07)60086-x
Tendinitis. Mayo Clinic. Published November 3, 2020. Accessed April 6, 2022.
Muscle strains. Mayo Clinic. Published September 1, 2020. Accessed April 6, 2022.
Shoulder impingement syndrome: Causes, symptoms & treatments. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed April 6, 2022.