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, N.C.
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"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 cuff.
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 the Stairmaster.
"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."