Baseball is back — and so are oblique muscle injuries

Baseball season has officially begun and, unfortunately, so has the ever-present disabled list (DL).

The DL is used to signify that a player is unable to compete and it allows the team to promote a substitute player from a lower level to the major league team. It also serves as a barometer for the success of strength and conditioning specialists as well as athletic trainers.

Among the injuries seen early in the season are those that affect the abdominal muscles. These are typically strains or tears in the muscle fibers. They can be very painful and debilitating for an athlete who competes in a throwing sport.

The oblique muscles consist of four paired muscles, the internal and external obliques. They are large, flat muscles that extend from the rib cage to the pelvis in a perpendicular orientation to each other. The principal role of these muscles is to provide stability to the trunk while protecting the abdominal contents.

Injury results from sudden tension on muscle fibers that are not supple. Oblique muscle injuries are most common in tennis, baseball and other sports where throwing and twisting are principal movements. Pitchers are especially impaired by these injuries.

Treatment of oblique muscle injuries consists of rest, alternating hot and cold applications and anti-inflammatory medications. The challenge is resting any muscle that provides support to the trunk. Whenever an athlete stands or turns, these muscles fire. Taping these muscles in an effort to restrict motion can result in diminished breathing.

The best way to prevent oblique muscle strain is through adequate stretching before any activity along with a core strengthening regimen.

Taking time to warm up before tossing a ball or swinging a racquet can keep all athletes off the disabled list.

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