Softball

01 Overview

Softball is a non-contact team sport played on an outdoor field. Compared to baseball, softball players play with a larger ball and a smaller field. There are three types of softball: slow-pitch, fast-pitch, and modified. The sport is governed locally by Softball BC. Fast-pitch softball was previously a Summer Olympic sport, and will return at the 2020 Olympics. Common injuries are ankle sprains, knee strains, concussions, and upper leg strains.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Ankle sprains are the most common injury among softball players.

Knee injuries are the second most common location for injury among softball players. This can occur while running, impacting another player, or even sliding.

Concussions can occur in softball.

Hamstring and other upper leg strains are one of the most common injuries in softball.

Shoulder injuries, including strains, tears, and tendonitis, are common among softball players.

02 Injury Statistics

Compared to other sports, softball has a relatively low injury rate. Common injuries in softball are ankle sprains, followed by knee strains, concussions, and upper leg strains. During practices, the most common injuries are ankle sprains, followed by upper leg strains, shoulder strains, and knee injuries.

Players in softball are at risk of getting injured while running, throwing, and making contact with objects. About half of all game injuries are caused by contact with something other than another player, such as the ground, a base, the ball, or a fence or wall. Overall, sliding is responsible for 1 in every 4 in-game injuries, while approximately 1 in every 4 in-game injuries are caused by non-contact methods such as throwing or running.

At the college/university level, 1 in 4 injuries are due to sliding with nearly half of these incidents resulting in ankle sprains, and approximately 18% of all in-game injuries involve contact with another player. An average adult team with 15 players playing 30 games will have about 2 sliding related injuries per season. At the youth level, every season about 1 athlete on every team will have a shoulder injury. Injuries are more likely to occur during the first month of the season.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

View Summary of Incidence Rates

03 Risk Factors

  • Pitching

    A youth/high school softball pitcher is at 2.6 times higher risk of a shoulder or elbow injury as compared to other players. A common misconception is that the windmill motion of softball pitching creates less stress on the arm than the overhead motion of baseball pitching; in fact, the stress is comparable to that of professional baseball players.

  • Alcohol Consumption

    Occasional alcohol consumption may increase the risk of injury among adults. Most leagues forbid drinking while playing.

  • Sliding

    Poor sliding technique, smaller field size, and uniform type (wearing shorts instead of pants in baseball) can increase the risk of sliding injuries in college/university softball. There is a higher prevalence of injuries with head first slides as compared to feet first slides among adults.

View Summary of Risk Factors

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in softball.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Equipment – Breakaway Bases

    It is estimated that breakaway bases can eliminate up to 80% of all sliding injuries at the college/university level, and up to 98% of sliding injuries among adults. Breakaway bases are recommended for recreational softball leagues.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Softball is a throwing sport with a risk of shoulder injury. Incorporating a shoulder injury prevention program into warm-up routines can increase control, flexibility, and coordination, and can help reduce upper extremity injuries while at play.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder, knee, and ankle strong and reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Lower body sprains and strains can happen while running or changing directions quickly. The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in injury.

    Click here to view poster.

    Managing Concussion

    While concussions are not the most common injury in softball, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for players and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment – Player Equipment
    All athletes should wear rubber spiked soles; male players should also wear a hard plastic cup.

    Helmets: Using approved batting helmets with face shields has been found to protect youth athletes from head and face injuries by up to 35% in baseball; this could be useful in softball.

    Catchers: It is recommended that catchers wear helmets, masks with throat guards, chest protectors, and shin guards.

    Note: Chest protectors have not shown to be effective at preventing the rare occurrence of sudden death among softball players.

    Pitching
    Throwing with pain or when fatigued can cause an overuse shoulder injury in softball. This can happen if throwing too many pitches in a game or season, or not taking time to rest in the off-season. Many young athletes play in multiple leagues and train year-round, increasing the occurrence of throwing-related injury to the shoulder. A common misconception is that the windmill motion of softball pitching creates less stress on the arm than the overhead motion of baseball pitching does. In fact, the stress is comparable to that of professional baseball players at older levels of play.

    Reduce the risk of throwing-related injury:

    Pitching count apps are available, making it easy to track how many pitches (balls vs. strikes) a pitcher has thrown.

    Softball Resources

    Sport-related Physicals
    Softball can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce the risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Equipment – Breakaway Bases

    It is estimated that breakaway bases can eliminate up to 80% of all sliding injuries at the college/university level, and up to 98% of sliding injuries among adults. Breakaway bases are recommended for recreational softball leagues.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Softball is a throwing sport with a risk of shoulder injury. Incorporating a shoulder injury prevention program into warm-up routines can increase control, flexibility, and coordination, and can help reduce upper extremity injuries while at play.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder, knee, and ankle strong and reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Lower body sprains and strains can happen while running or changing directions quickly. The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in injury.

    Click here to view poster.

    Managing Concussion

    While concussions are not the most common injury in softball, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment – Player Equipment
    All athletes should wear rubber spiked soles; male players should also wear a hard plastic cup.

    Helmets: Using approved batting helmets with face shields has been found to protect youth athletes from head and face injuries by up to 35% in baseball; this could be useful in softball.

    Catchers: It is recommended that catchers wear helmets, masks with throat guards, chest protectors, and shin guards.

    Note: Chest protectors have not shown to be effective at preventing the rare occurrence of sudden death among softball players.

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides some recommendations for safely implementing softball in elementary schools.

    Learn more about implementing softball in schools.

    Pitching
    Throwing with pain or when fatigued can cause an overuse shoulder injury in softball. This can happen if throwing too many pitches in a game or season, or not taking time to rest in the off-season. Many young athletes play in multiple leagues and train year-round, increasing the occurrence of throwing-related injury to the shoulder. A common misconception is that the windmill motion of softball pitching creates less stress on the arm than the overhead motion of baseball pitching does. In fact, the stress is comparable to that of professional baseball players at older levels of play.

    Reduce the risk of throwing-related injury:

    Pitching count apps are available, making it easy to track how many pitches (balls vs. strikes) a pitcher has thrown.

    Softball Resources

    Sport-related Physicals
    Softball can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce the risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Equipment – Breakaway Bases

    It is estimated that breakaway bases can eliminate up to 80% of all sliding injuries at the college/university level, and up to 98% of sliding injuries among adults. Breakaway bases are recommended for recreational softball leagues.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Softball is a throwing sport with a risk of shoulder injury. Incorporating a shoulder injury prevention program into warm-up routines can increase control, flexibility, and coordination, and can help reduce upper extremity injuries while at play.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder, knee, and ankle strong and reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Lower body sprains and strains can happen while running or changing directions quickly. The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in injury.

    Click here to view poster.

    Managing Concussion

    While concussions are not the most common injury in softball, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides some recommendations for safely implementing softball in elementary schools.

    Learn more about implementing softball in schools.

    Equipment – Player Equipment
    All athletes should wear rubber spiked soles; male players should also wear a hard plastic cup.

    Helmets: Using approved batting helmets with face shields has been found to protect youth athletes from head and face injuries by up to 35% in baseball; this could be useful in softball.

    Catchers: It is recommended that catchers wear helmets, masks with throat guards, chest protectors, and shin guards.

    Note: Chest protectors have not shown to be effective at preventing the rare occurrence of sudden death in softball players.

    Pitching
    Throwing with pain or when fatigued can cause an overuse shoulder injury in softball. This can happen if throwing too many pitches in a game or season, or not taking time to rest in the off-season. Many young athletes play in multiple leagues and train year-round, increasing the occurrence of throwing-related injury to the shoulder. A common misconception is that the windmill motion of softball pitching creates less stress on the arm than the overhead motion of baseball pitching does. In fact, the stress is comparable to that of professional baseball players at older levels of play.

    Reduce the risk of throwing-related injury:

    Pitching count apps are available, making it easy to track how many pitches (balls vs. strikes) a pitcher has thrown.

    Softball Resources

    Sport-related Physicals
    Softball can be a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce the risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing softball injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to players, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured players are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to softball to prevent re-injury or chronic injury

    Equipment – Breakaway Bases

    It is estimated that breakaway bases can eliminate up to 80% of all sliding injuries at the college/university level, and up to 98% of sliding injuries in adults. Breakaway bases are recommended for recreational softball leagues.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Softball is a throwing sport with a risk of shoulder injury. Incorporating a shoulder injury prevention program into warm-up routines can increase control, flexibility, and coordination, and can help reduce upper extremity injuries while at play.

    Non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is often associated with a planted foot and deceleration, resulting in a valgus knee position. A neuromuscular training program has been shown to significantly reduced ACL injuries in females if training includes plyometrics, and strength and balance exercises once a week for at least six weeks.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder, knee, and ankle strong and reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent ankle injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in injury.

    Click here to view poster.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Equipment – Player Equipment
    Encourage athletes to wear rubber spiked soles; male players should also wear a hard plastic cup.

    Helmets: Using approved batting helmets with face shields has been found to protect youth athletes from head and face injuries by up to 35% in baseball; this could be useful in softball.

    Catchers: It is recommended that catchers wear helmets, masks with throat guards, chest protectors, and shin guards.

    Note: Chest protectors have not shown to be effective at preventing the rare occurrence of sudden death among softball players.

    Pitching
    Throwing with pain or when fatigued can cause an overuse shoulder injury in softball. This can happen if throwing too many pitches in a game or season, or not taking time to rest in the off-season. Many young athletes play in multiple leagues and train year-round, increasing the occurrence of throwing-related injury to the shoulder. A common misconception is that the windmill motion of softball pitching creates less stress on the arm than the overhead motion of baseball pitching does. In fact, the stress is comparable to that of professional baseball players at older levels of play.

    Ways to encourage softball players to reduce their risk of throwing-related injury:

    • Monitor fatigue and pain levels.
    • Never pitch or throw with pain.
    • Avoid pitching on multiple teams with overlapping seasons.
    • Be aware of age-appropriate pitches. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine has recommendations on pitching in softball.

    Pitching count apps are available, making it easy to track how many pitches (balls vs. strikes) a pitcher has thrown.

    Softball Resources

    Sport-related Physicals
    Softball is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce the risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.