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Follow these tips to avoid baseball injuries

Avoid the bench this baseball season by preventing injuries commonly associated with one of the country's favorite sports.

Due to the repetitive use of the arm, most baseball injuries occur in the hand, elbow and shoulder. Douglas County Hospital and its supporting orthopedic surgeons at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists often treat hand to shoulder injuries in baseball players, including: rotator cuff tears, dislocated shoulders, elbow tendonitis, wrist sprains and finger fractures.

Overuse is a major factor in baseball-related injuries and it primarily occurs over time due to stress on the muscles, joints and soft tissue. It might begin as a small, nagging ache or pain, but it could quickly grow into a debilitating injury if it is not treated early.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), more than 627,000 baseball-related injuries are treated in hospitals, emergency rooms, doctors' offices and ambulatory surgical centers each year.

To help prevent these types of injuries, Douglas County Hospital and its supporting orthopedic surgeons offer the following prevention tips:

--Warm up and stretch. Stretching the back, shoulders and arms can prove to be helpful.

--Limit the number of pitches thrown and the type of pitches thrown.

--Use proper technique for throwing and catching.

--Get adequate recovery after an injury to prevent further injury.

--Stay hydrated.

Dr. Jefferson C. Brand, a fellowship-trained sports medicine specialist at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, says an injured player's symptoms should be significantly improved before returning to play.

"Injured players should gradually return to the game, depending on the length of time away, and slowly increase their participation level," Brand said. "Athletes have great success working with athletic trainers and physical therapists on return-to-sport programs."

This pertains to such sports as baseball, softball, volleyball and even weekend warriors. Brand also says it is important for the player to have no pain or swelling, and to have full range of motion and normal strength.

Douglas County Hospital partners with area orthopedists to provide the best orthopedic care to residents throughout West Central Minnesota. In 2008, Douglas County Hospital expanded their services to include the Total Joint Replacement Center, a more comprehensive approach to orthopedic medicine.

Their services also include the back and neck and the upper and lower extremities. In conjunction with Douglas County Hospital, Heartland Orthopedic Specialists' Sports Medicine Program started in 1994 with Mike Doyle and Dr. Brand. They work with nine area high schools, the Alexandria Beetles baseball team, the University of Minnesota Morris and Minnesota State Community and Technical College (Fergus Falls). For more information on Douglas County Hospital and its supporting orthopedic surgeons, visit