Baseball catchers: they protect their pitchers, they protect the plate, but a new report reveals that they’re not adequately protected by their catchers’ mitts:
“What we found were changes in the index finger, which [in catchers] was larger, and showed symptoms consistent with repetitive trauma,” Koman [professor of orthopedic surgery at Wake Forest University School of Medicine–ed.] said. The finding came as a surprise, he said, since the researchers had expected trauma would be focused in the palm, not the fingers.
Many of the catchers complained of weakness, tingling or pain in the index finger, especially during games, although some “resting” symptoms were reported as well. Index fingers were also often found to be significantly enlarged, another sign of chronic damage to circulation and nerves.
“What’s interesting — and what we don’t really have an answer to — is that many baseball players will place their index finger outside the glove,” Koman noted. “There’s this strap where they put it — is that causing the damage?” No one is sure why catchers adopt this ‘index-outside’ style, he said. “It may have evolved to protect the index finger, but it might actually put it at risk,” he speculated.
The report, which appears in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, speculates that when the mitt went from two- to one-handed in the 60’s, the protective padding was thinned. But adding more padding would make closing the glove more difficult. It sounds like an opportunity for a medgadget to make a relief appearance.
More from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery…