Epidemiology of Shoulder and Elbow Injuries Among United States High School Baseball Players: School Years 2005-2006 Through 2014-2015

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Abstract

Background:

Shoulder and elbow injuries are common in young athletes, especially high school baseball players. Understanding the risk factors associated with baseball injuries is an essential first step in the development of injury prevention strategies.

Purpose:

To provide a comprehensive understanding of the epidemiology of shoulder and elbow injuries among high school baseball players in the United States.

Study Design:

Descriptive epidemiological study.

Methods:

Baseball-related injury data were obtained from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study using High School RIO (Reporting Information Online), an Internet-based sports injury surveillance system. Athletic trainers from high schools across the country uploaded data regarding athlete-exposures (AEs) (defined as practice or game participation) and shoulder and elbow injuries from the school years 2005-2006 through 2014-2015.

Results:

A total of 241 shoulder injuries and 150 elbow injuries occurred during 1,734,198 AEs during the study period, for an overall shoulder injury rate of 1.39 per 10,000 AEs and an overall elbow injury rate of 0.86 per 10,000 AEs. The overall rates of injury were higher in competitions compared with practices for shoulders (rate ratio, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.11-1.85) and elbows (rate ratio, 2.15; 95% CI, 1.56-2.96). The majority of shoulder (39.6%) and elbow (56.9%) injuries were sustained by pitchers, and most injuries were chronic and caused by overuse. Position players were more likely to sustain injuries by contact with the playing surface or apparatus. For pitchers, muscle strains were the most common shoulder injuries (38.7%), while ligament sprains were the most common elbow injuries (42.7%). The majority of pitchers with shoulder (70.8%) and elbow (64.6%) injuries returned to play within 21 days. Among pitchers, a higher proportion of elbow injuries (11.4%) resulted in medical disqualification compared with shoulder injuries (5.6%). Among pitchers, the majority of shoulder (89.2%) and elbow (96.4%) injuries were managed nonsurgically.

Conclusion:

Shoulder and elbow injury rates and patterns in high school baseball players differed between field positions (pitchers vs position players) and by type of exposure (practice vs competition). This study suggests several areas of emphasis for targeted injury prevention interventions, most notably limiting fatigue and preventing overuse injuries.

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