Keys to Preventing Injuries in the Early Weeks of Spring Training Camp, Games
A new season brings new beginnings; spring training welcomes spring renewal.
With Monday and Tuesday being the official reporting dates for many pitchers and catchers, players are hoping to get off to a fast start to the 2013 season.
However, those winter days of lounging in pajamas can sometimes hinder a player's ability to muscle through spring training unscathed. Sore joints, pulled ligaments and freak injuries have become familiarities during the early weeks of the baseball season.
There are a few basic steps that ballplayers can take to avoid an unfortunate setback. Let's take a look.
Maybe the most important preventive step to avoiding injury in spring training is a proper offseason workout regimen.
By keeping fit during the cold, winter months, there will be less stress on the body when normal baseball workouts begin in February. Cross-training, muscle development and a focus on problem areas are all important techniques to maintain peak form.
In order to strengthen those areas that need additional attention, offseason training is especially important for those players hoping to bounce back from injury-ridden seasons.
For instance, John Lackey of the Boston Red Sox, who missed the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, showed up early to Red Sox camp in Fort Myers looking slim and in shape.
Other players like Carl Crawford (elbow) and Victor Martinez (knee) are also hoping their offseason workouts expedite their journey back to the playing field in 2013.
Slow and Steady
Like the old adage says, "Slow and steady wins the race."
As we all know, the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, so getting out of the gate early in spring training is not always (or ever) the wisest decision.
Straining the limits of one's physical exertion is the perfect way to re-injure a previous problem or to create a new one.
So take it easy, Derek Jeter, who's rehabbing an ankle that bothered him late last season and culminated in a fracture during Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS.
Slow down, Jose Bautista, who slugged 27 home runs in 92 games for the Blue Jays in 2012 before a wrist injury sidelined him for nearly all of the second half.
Steady going, Carlos Gonzalez, who battled a hindering hamstring that ended his season early in mid-September.
Smart decisions in February will pay off come October.
Monitor Trouble Spots
Spring training is a luxury.
Monitoring existing issues is imperative, and being sure that players aren't training in pain is an important precaution.
The early months of the season are a time to hone one's swing, improve hand-eye coordination, build chemistry in the middle infield and loosen the arms of pitchers and craft their control. Therefore, if an injury is lingering, there shouldn't be any need to push the player to participate until fully healed.
A prime example is Ryan Madson, the former Philadelphia Phillies closer, who missed the entire 2012 season with the Cincinnati Reds due to elbow ligament replacement surgery. The reliever signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels but will remain out until at least April as the team monitors his right arm.
The Miami Marlins are keeping an eye on outfielder Logan Morrison's knee, holding him back from running at full strength until the end of February at best.
Matt Kemp began upper body workouts with the turn of the new year but is still in the process of rehabbing his left shoulder, which underwent arthroscopic surgery after a nasty collision with the outfield wall in Colorado.
Physical trainers and medical staff will be on high alert in February and March.
Don't Be Stupid
Last spring ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote a blog ranking the 10 greatest spring training injuries involving some sort of mishap (and since he's been recording them for 20 years, there are some pretty good ones).
If there's one safeguard that must be kept in mind by professional ballplayers during spring training, it's don't be stupid.
Avoidable injuries are usually the ones that sting the most, especially when they occur to star players.
In Stark's article, he cites David Price leaving a game with a neck spasm after the towel he was using to wipe down his neck got caught on a hair and twisted his head.
Or Angels first baseman Mo Vaughn, who missed a game in 2000 when a piece of leaky ceiling dropped into his eye.
The worst of the worst, according to Stark, was when Brewers knuckleballer Steve Sparks dislocated his left shoulder in 1994 attempting to rip apart a phone book after a demonstration from a motivational speaker.
Sometimes luck isn't on one's side, but players should think twice before making a decision they might regret.