There is a reason that professional athletes have such short-lived careers. Playing a sport at such a high level and on a consistent basis is hard on the body. In baseball, common injuries include shoulder issues such as torn rotator cuffs, leg and back strain, and damage to the knees. Even players who do not suffer serious injuries must deal with muscle fatigue and repeated physical stress.
Professional athletes are valued commodities and league owners spend large amounts of money to ensure that their players stay healthy and recover quickly from injuries. Here are a few ways that pro baseball players keep themselves in the game.
It is essential for major league players to maintain a high level of fitness. Even in the offseason, pro players maintain a rigorous and detailed workout regimen at least three times per week. Most pro-players have a fully stocked gym somewhere in their home and many have pools on their property as well. Swimming is perhaps the best no-impact exercise that anyone can engage in and given a pro player’s income, they don’t need to worry about swimming pool financing. Maintaining this level of muscle conditioning and physical fitness is the best protection they can have against injuries during the season.
Teams hire skilled physical therapists and athletic trainers. Trainers make sure that a player is engaging in proper movement and form to avoid stress injuries from repeated misalignment. Trainers also track a particular player’s areas of weakness and tailor individual workouts to strengthen necessary muscle groups. Physical therapists ensure that strains or injuries are addressed properly and immediately to avoid compounding game fatigue and they create plans to help players recuperate from more serious injuries.
Regardless of whether a player has suffered an injury in a game or not, the simple act of playing ball at a pro-level will require some form of recovery therapy after every game. Contrary to what many think, the best way to recover from prolonged physical stress is not complete rest. Coming out of a game and immediately going into a period of inactivity can actually cause damage. For healing to occur, the body needs muscle groups to engage in light movement and for blood circulation to be maintained. Teams use a variety of post-game recovery tools to achieve this.
Many trainers have players take part in a short period of light cardio activity as soon as they come off of the field. It’s a form of a cool down from the intense activity of the game and it keeps the players moving and the blood flowing to allow the body to begin to heal. Usually, this will be followed by a series of light stretches.
After the cool-down activities, many teams use cold water immersion tubs to reduce swelling and avoid excessive soreness in overused muscles. Although ice water immersion was once the norm, most teams have recognized that the shock caused by such extreme temperature can shock the muscles and have moved to cold water methods instead.
Finally, players are encouraged to drink recovery fluids such as sports drinks and to take in some form of light, quality nutrition like a protein drink or smoothie. Only then are players sent home to rest and get a good night’s sleep.
Many players would not be caught out without their compression garments. Compression does a lot more than offer support; it can increase blood flow, reduce excess fluids and toxins and quicken the rate of injury recovery.
Because active recovery has been proven to be more effective than total rest, some professional sports teams use electrical muscle stimulation devices. These devices use weak electrical charges to stimulate movement in the targeted muscle. This enables a player to experience movement in a muscle group even if regular exercise is prohibited by fatigue or injury.
Playing major league ball is a full-time and highly demanding career. Maintaining physical fitness is essential for players to maintain and lengthen their careers and it helps owners to guard the investment they have made in these skilled athletes.