Unfortunately, almost every softball player eventually suffers an injury. Hopefully, yours will be minor, but whether it's a pulled hamstring or elbow tendonitis, at some point in your playing career, it's likely that something bad will happen.
Like most athletes, softball players train, practice and prepare in hopes of increasing their athletic performance for when it matters most: game time. But for high-caliber athletes, it's equally important to spend time focusing on ways to stay healthy and remain on the field.
So what are some things you can do now that will make a difference?
Athletes are trained to know the definition of rehab—recuperating a bone, muscle, ligament, or joint following a minor or major injury. But why wait until something bad happens to take action to heal a body part? Make prehab part of your routine: shoulder band exercises to avoid rotator cuff issues; abductor exercises to prevent pulled groins; and single-leg training to improve balance and protect your ankles, knees and hips. (Follow this circuit to prevent shoulder injuries.)
Follow an Athlete's Diet
As a softball player, your goal should be to be as lean and physically fit as possible. Often injuries happen because of poor body composition. Too much body fat in the upper body can lead to weak joints in the lower body.
Sugar is the softball player's Kryptonite. Too much refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup can make an athlete go straight from the field to the athletic trainer's office. Initially, sugar gives you a jolt of energy, but if it isn't burned quickly—and in softball there's an awful lot of standing around—then it will likely be stored as body fat. Too much body fat increases the risk of injury and slows down your running, making it more difficult to make standout plays in the field. Get your diet on track with some basic nutrition guidelines.
Find a Performance Training Coach
By now, hopefully, you're well aware you need to be lifting weights both in the off-season and in-season. But what you may not know is that you need performance training just as much. Find a coach to help you work on your speed, agility, core, balance and explosiveness. These drills won't tax your central nervous system the way strenuous Squats, Deadlifts, and Power Cleans do, so you can do them more often than your weight room program. A good performance coach will teach you new drills and make sure you use proper technique to prevent injury. STACK's got some great softball workouts, so check them out!
Listen to Your Body
Nobody wants to admit they're hurt. The worst thing an athlete can be called is "soft." At every level—high school, college and the pros—somebody is always behind you, ready and willing to take your spot. But if you have an injury that needs attention and requires time off, it's important to reveal it. Concealing it will only make things worse than they already are.
There's a fine line between being "hurt" and being "injured." Understanding the difference could mean either sitting out or playing in the field. If you are truly injured, playing will not only make you look bad, it might put your team in a poor position against your opponent.
For long-term success in softball (and other sports), learn how to stay in tune with your body, and always listen to what your body is telling you.
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