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MLB Injuries

Even though baseball is generally considered to be a lower-intensity sport, MLB injuries still occur. When they do, baseball players might spend the rest of the season on the bench. Learn about the latest baseball player injuries and how MLB injuries can affect betting odds here.

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MLB Injuries

MLB has one of the longest seasons in all of sports. The marathon starts in February when pitchers and catchers report for spring training, and the World Series now extends into mid-November. Many players also play winter ball to keep their skill level honed during the offseason.

All that baseball, day in and day out for most of the year, can wear down a body, and subsequently, lead to injury.

Just like people in all walks of life, professional baseball athletes can suffer serious injuries that require surgery and months of rest and rehab, or minor ones that just leave them limping or nursing a nagging ache for weeks or months.

Youth baseball features a schedule that can rival the pros for the workload on a young, growing body, and more and more youngsters are becoming single-sport athletes to maximize their draft opportunity by getting as much practice as possible in the sport they see as their best shot at the pros. As a result, many prospects end up battling injury and having surgery long before they get to the professional level.

We’ll take a look at the most common MLB injuries, according to baseball studies, the most severe ones, and what the best sources for injury data are as you’re trying to see if your favorite player’s season might be interrupted or if the futures odds of your favorite team might be impacted. This can also be important to determine how certain teams might perform ATS (Against the Spread).

MLB Injury Report

MLB teams are only allowed to have 26 players on their active roster for a game, and not all of them are available, due to rest days given to pitchers. So, it’s important to teams to make sure they’re not devoting a valuable roster spot to an injured player who won’t be taking the field on a given day.

That’s why baseball has developed the injured list or IL. If you’ve heard the term “disabled list” or “DL,” it was called that until a few years ago.) Putting a player on the IL clears his spot on the active roster, so the team can find a replacement, either in the minor leagues or by acquiring a player by trade or signing. The only catch is, in order to use this tool to add to your roster, an injured player can’t return to active duty for a certain amount of time.

The IL report is included in most official listings of a team’s roster, so it can be found on most MLB.com and team pages, as well as on most major outlets that cover MLB, such as ESPN, FanGraphs or USA Today. Many sites related to fantasy sports are also good sources of injury data.

When teams make a roster move related to the injured list, they are published in most major outlets, and usually, the team will also tweet out an announcement of the move on Twitter.

The most common injured lists are the 10-day IL and 15-day IL. The 10-day injured list is for position players who are hurt, while the 15-day injured list is for injured pitchers.

It’s important to note that the days in the names of the various injured lists do not denote when a player will return to the active roster, they are the minimum number of days a player must miss.

So if Mike Trout goes to the 10-day IL, then he can be replaced on the Angels roster with a healthy player, but Trout isn’t allowed to play again for the next 10 days. At the end of that, his team can bring him back at any time, or leave him on the injured list. Theoretically, a player could stay on the 10-day injured list all season.

For more serious injuries that will require long periods of rehab—including season-ending injuries—there is the 60-day injured list. This means that the player won’t be available for a minimum of two months, but again, it could be longer.

A player on the 10 or 15-day IL can later be moved to the 60-day IL (there are benefits to doing this related to a team’s ability to protect key players in the minor leagues, but it’s not important to know for the injury discussion).

Players who are suspected of having a concussion can be played on a 7-day injured list while they go through the protocols to test their head injury. And there is a bereavement list and paternity list that gives players a few days off to tend to a birth or death in the family.

The Most Common MLB Injuries

The most common baseball injuries are usually related to joints. Baseball pitchers put tremendous strain on their arms as they throw at high velocity and put torque on their joints to generate spin to make the ball move. Hitters contort their bodies as they swing, and diving fielders and sliding runners all put themselves at risk.

Here’s a look at some of the most common injuries in MLB.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries can be serious, and, for position players, are likely the most common type of season-ending surgery required.

One common serious knee injury is a tear to the meniscus, which is a cartilage cushion in the joint. Sudden turns or pivots can cause the tear. It usually feels like a sudden pop, and then the joint will swell up painfully over time.

Some players may try to play through the pain, depending on the severity of the tear (it can be partially torn or completely torn) and the pain tolerance of the player. The injury usually requires surgery that can take up to four months to recover from. Even if a player is going to try to play through it, they’ll often need arthroscopic surgery to “clean up” the joint, which can sideline them for three weeks.

Ligaments supporting the knee are another source of injury. Players can sprain or tear their ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or MCL (medial collateral ligament). Upper extremity injuries like tears are usually season-ending, while sprains can sideline someone for weeks or months. Ronald Acuna suffered an ACL tear in 2021, while All-Star catcher Salvador Perez tore his MCL.

Foot and Ankle Injuries

Foot and ankle injuries aren’t as likely to end a player’s season, but they can last for a long time as nagging injuries, causing a player to underperform.

The Achilles tendon runs up the back of the leg and can develop tendonitis, which can send a player, like the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton last season, to the 10-day IL. Or the Achilles can be torn, which will end a season. Ankle sprains can be mild or severe. Some sprains may not require a trip to the injured list while others can keep a player out for 10 to 12 weeks. Willy Adames of the Brewers missed three weeks with a sprain last season. Manny Machado missed 10 days, while Mitch Haniger missed 15 weeks.

Foot injuries like plantar fasciitis or Lisfranc injuries occur occasionally in baseball but are more common in other sports, like basketball and football.

Hand and Wrist Injuries

There are plenty of ways to hurt your hand and wrist while playing baseball. Fingers can get dislocated or broken while sliding or by being hit by a pitch.

Some of the top players in baseball have been sent to the IL by hairline fractures in the wrist (Trevor Story and Julio Rodriguez), tendon strains in the wrist (Mark Teixeira) and broken fingers (Ozzie Albies, Jean Segura, Eugenio Suarez). Rodriguez missed 10 days, while Story missed a month and a half. So the length of time missed depends on the severity and exact location of the injury.

Pitchers can also suffer mild but nagging injuries to their fingers, including problems with their nails and blisters on their middle or index finger. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t sound awful, but it affects a pitcher in the most important part of his job—gripping the ball. These injuries often don’t require trips to the IL, so they often aren’t publicized, but they can cut a start short or cause a pitcher to miss a start unexpectedly. Zack Wheeler had a procedure to fix a persistent fingernail problem, while Rich Hill and Marcus Stroman have both battled blisters.

Elbow Injuries

The elbow is one of the injuries that can cut a pitcher’s season short. The act of pitching a baseball is unnatural and puts pressure on the joint.

The name you’ll hear most often when discussing a player’s elbow is Tommy John. He was a pitcher in the 1970s and 80s who had his elbow rebuilt after tearing his UCL (ulnar collateral ligament), replacing the ligament with one from a cadaver. He missed an entire season but returned and pitched for many more years. He was one of the first to receive the then-experimental surgery, and it’s now named after him. So any elbow trouble leads to speculation on whether the injured player will need Tommy John Surgery, which now keeps most recipients out for nine months.

Warning signs of a potential UCL injury that needs Tommy John are the terms forearm strain and forearm flexor tendinitis. These are often symptoms or precursors of the full torn ligament. Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander are two of the many many pitchers that have come back to enjoy the rest of their baseball careers after this surgery.

Other injuries, such as elbow sprains, are less severe and have a similar recovery period as ankle injuries.

Shoulder Injuries

The shoulder can produce a wide range of problems in players. Much like the elbow, shoulder injuries can be the reason behind a season-ending surgery for pitchers. Rotator cuff tears are one of the more severe injuries.

A cuff is a group of muscles that keeps your arm bone in the shoulder socket, and the stress of pitching can cause those muscles to tear. Obviously, this takes a long time to recover from and insure that the tear won’t occur again when the pitcher begins stressing the joint in the future. Shane Bieber came back from rotator cuff problems.

The rotator cuff is also the culprit in a slightly less severe injury known as shoulder impingement. In this injury, tendons supporting the cuff get pinched. Often this is a precursor to a tear if it’s not addressed. Shane Mclanahan, Kyle Hendricks and David Wright have battled impingements.

Other Common Baseball Injuries

There’s a wide variety of other body parts that players can hurt. Please cover in detail other common MLB injuries, and the average expected time for them to heal. Hamstring injuries affect the tendons and muscles in the back of a player’s leg. They can be strained or torn, and they tend to get reinjured easily, so a player with a strain must be handled carefully to avoid a tear.

It can be frustrating to try to treat these injuries, as there are often many false starts when things feel fine, only to have the strain return. It can range from a nagging day-to-day problem to a 10-day stay on the injured list to season-ending surgery.

The hamstring strain falls into the category of soft tissue injuries, which means bones are not involved. Other injuries in this category include oblique strains and adductor strains.

The adductor strain used to be called a groin strain, while the oblique refers to the muscles in your side, next to your abs. Back injuries, or lumbar strains, are also common in batters as well as catchers. All of these common baseball injuries have wide ranges of recovery time depending on the severity and the risk of subsequent injury.

MLB Injury Statistics

Unless your name is Cal Ripken Jr., you’re going to get injured playing in MLB. Injury risk assessment research found that professional baseball players have a 58 percent chance of suffering an injury in a given season.

With the season starting and ending in cold weather, injury rates are often higher in April and October games. And there has been an increase in injuries in recent years as the long delay and short schedule for COVID in 2020, a late start due to COVID in 2021, followed by a labor dispute that caused a late start to the 2022 season have disrupted normal offseason rest, workout and preparation schedules, One study found that injury rates nearly doubled in 2020.

Still, despite the long season and wear and tear, baseball compares favorably to other sports with faster paces—like basketball—or more contact—like football and hockey—when it comes to injury rates.

Most Frequently Injured Player Positions

By a wide margin, the pitcher is the most injured baseball position. More than half of all baseball injuries in MLB are to pitchers. The act of pitching is violent on an athlete’s joints and wear and tear is severe, making them prone to baseball shoulder injuries.

More than one in four pitchers in MLB have already had at least one Tommy John surgery and more than 86 percent of all games involve at least one pitcher who’s come back from Tommy John. That’s just looking at the impact of that one surgery to repair one type of injury.

Among non-pitchers, the catcher is the second most injury-prone position. The constant squatting and standing back up—at least once for every pitch in the game—is brutal on knees and lower backs, and the risk of being hit by foul tips, bats or sliding runners trying to score just adds to the injury risk.

Common Treatments for MLB Player Injuries

MLB trainers are kept very busy by a large number of injuries the players on a team’s roster may be suffering from at any given time. Here are some common ways to treat baseball injuries.

The RICE Method

For soft tissue injuries and other minor problems (i.e., not something that needs surgery), the RICE method is usually the first way the injury is treated. It’s meant to reduce swelling and pain.

RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. You should stop using the injured part, put ice on it, wrap it and raise it above your heart. It’s why you’ll often see pitchers wearing a bag of ice strapped to their arm after a game.

RICE is just meant to keep a minor injury from being too swollen or sore to be able to play tomorrow. It doesn’t really heal or repair major problems.

Taping and Strapping

Taping and strapping refer to continuing to apply compression to an injured body part. It’s usually done when a player returns to the field after suffering an injury. The injured area will be wrapped tightly with strapping tape (often called “athletic tape”) to reduce the range of motion, support the joint and lower the risk of a future injury.

EPAT Therapy

EPAT therapy is sometimes called shockwave therapy. It bombards the injured body part with high-energy sound waves. It is a non-surgical way to manage injuries by increasing blood flow to the injured area.

Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Anti-inflammatories help reduce swelling, and thus pain, in injured players. It can be over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) or something stronger.

Injections of a drug called Toradol were common about 10 years ago. It has fallen out of favor as part of a regular pain management routine—like taking a couple of Advil—but it is still used in serious cases of pain.

Physical Therapy

Recovery from an injury, whether surgery is required or not, is likely going to require physical therapy. Most teams have a physical therapist, if not a physical therapy staff, and their job is to help the team’s elite athletes work their way back onto the playing field by doing exercises that strengthen the injured area and get them ready to do normal day-to-day tasks of playing baseball.

Surgery for Baseball Injuries

Surgery is obviously a major interruption to a player’s routine, whether it’s in season, and he’s missing games, or after the season. Many players will do everything possible to treat injuries using alternate methods and use surgery as a last resort. Season-ending surgery is often required for major injuries, and often, the recovery and rehab period can endanger the start of the next season as well.

The development of arthroscopic surgery allows some procedures to be performed in a far less invasive—and damaging—way, shortening recovery times and improving career longevity compared to past generations.

How MLB Player Injuries Affect Betting Odds

Obviously, MLB player injuries can have a major impact on betting odds. A team’s season can be derailed by an injury to a key player.

The Yankees were the best team in baseball and on a pace to break the record for wins in a season, until their best reliever, Michael King, suffered a season-ending elbow injury. They ended up barely winning their division and exiting the postseason in the second round of the playoffs.

While the injury report for each team is available to everyone, nagging injuries that don’t send a player to the IL can be tougher to gauge or detect. Finding out information on who has aches and pains or who is trying to play through something that may eventually end their season can make the difference between winning or losing a bet.

Frequently Asked Questions About MLB Injuries

Historically, what were the worst injuries in MLB?

The worst MLB injuries are the ones that affect the big three joints—knee, elbow and shoulder. While pitchers and position players are subject to all three, in general, position players are more likely to need season-ending surgery on their knee, while pitchers are more likely to have major elbow and shoulder problems.

Why are there so many injuries in baseball?

The risk of overuse injuries—or “wear and tear” injuries—are higher in a long season, and baseball season starts in February and ends in November. According to some studies, players are more likely than not to get injured during a season, so anyone who is healthy is just waiting for a future injury to crop up.

What is an IL injury in baseball?

An injury that requires a trip to the injured list (IL) is one that will keep a player out for at least 10 days. The team gets a waiver to replace him on the active roster until he’s ready to return. 10-day/15-day Injured List trips mean that the player is expected back, maybe as soon as two weeks from now, but often longer. A 60-day IL assignment means that it is a serious injury and could be season-ending.

How many baseball injuries per year occur in MLB?

The risk of injury is high, because of the long season and the unnatural acts of throwing 100 mph, swinging a bat and playing catcher. One in four pitchers have had a season-ending elbow injury that required a nine-month recovery, and the average player has a 58 percent chance of suffering an injury in a season.

The injured list was used 1,246 times in the 2019 season (the last time COVID and labor disputes didn’t impact the start of the season, and teams had between 600 and 2000 lost player games during the season.

What injuries would end a baseball career?

The most severe injuries are the ones that are most likely to threaten a player’s career. Knee, elbow and shoulder injuries, which have major surgeries to correct them and often come with extended recovery and rehab periods, are the most difficult to come back from. Even if a player returns, his speed, velocity or power may not be at the level it once was. Basically, that means he won’t be as good, and performing at a lower level can also threaten his career.

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