STAMFORD, Conn. -- A baseball catcher is one of the most demanding positions in baseball, perhaps in all of sport. Naturally, this position comes with a variety of potential injuries. Let’s evaluate by body part:
Being in a squatting position for nine innings puts tremendous stress on knees. In youth leagues, catchers may experience more pain in their kneecaps. At the professional level, there are more meniscus injuries and fewer kneecap injuries, as players with kneecap issues can’t catch for very long.
The catcher’s throwing hand, which is constantly exposed, can be accidentally struck by the bat or ball causing blunt trauma to the hand, fingers, and wrist. The glove hand sees repetitive trauma. In a typical professional game, a catcher stops about 150 pitches, many hitting his glove at speeds well over 90 mph. This can cause fingers to become enlarged, especially the index finger, along with microtrauma to digital nerves and vessels.
While not able to throw with the precision or velocity of pitchers, catchers are the only other players on the diamond throwing every play. Typically, they throw from a squat position, which puts more pressure on their shoulders and can cause shoulder inflammation.
Catchers are at risk for head trauma with every play at the plate. Collisions can lead to concussion and a myriad of other traumatic injuries (e.g. broken bones, contusions, dislocations). Beyond collisions, catchers can get hit with a foul tip or an inadvertent swing.
The catcher has the most demanding job of all players. They have to manage the game on the field and have a detailed knowledge of their pitchers and opposing batters. They have to be durable as they put their body through intense battle every game. Finally, they have to be tough-minded. Even in a slump, they have to stay focused mentally to ensure that they are framing every pitch, protecting their pitcher and calling the game.
Dr. Andrew Pearle is orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and robotic surgery. He is a team physician for the New York Mets and coordinates care for the minor league affiliates including the Brooklyn Cyclones. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Stamford and the hospital’s main campus in New York.