Major League Baseball — more dangerous than you think

When you think of dangerous sports, perhaps football, hockey or snowmobiling comes to mind. But maybe you should be thinking baseball, according to a study presented Sunday at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in Providence, R.I.

Compiled by a team from the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, the study analyzed data from the disabled lists of major league teams for the 2002 through 2008 seasons.

Learning more about when, how and why players get injured can help teams avoid future mishaps, said Maj. Matthew Posner, the orthopedic surgeon who led the study. “It’s a hole that needs to be filled,” he said.

Overall, pitchers seem to be experiencing the bulk of the injuries. They were 34% more likely to be injured compared with fielders, and they accounted for 62.4% of the days that players spent on the disabled list, even though a typical team of 25 players has only 11 pitchers on its roster.

Not surprisingly, the study saw a significant association between position played and anatomic region injured. Pitchers experienced 67% of their injuries in their shoulders and arms, compared with only 32% for fielders. Instead, fielders experienced 47.5% of their injuries to their hips and legs and 20% to the back, core muscles and other areas.

The study also found that patterns of injuries were the same in both the National League and the American League. For instance, 52% of the injuries in the National League were to the upper extremities, compared with 51% in the American League.

According to Posner, the most surprising finding of the study was not how often or where players were injured, but when these injuries occurred. Based on trends for other sports, he had assumed that the majority of injuries would occur toward the end of the season.

“We expected to see a wear-and-tear phenomenon,” Posner said. “The longer you play, the more likely you are to get run down … and be more prone to injury.”

But the numbers said otherwise. It turned out that 74% of the injuries occurred before the All-Star break, which marks the halfway point in the season.

The fact that so many players get injured during the first half of the season is worrisome and should be looked at more closely, Posner said. It might indicate that players aren’t stretching enough before practices and games, for instance, or that conditioning during spring training is inadequate.

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