A problem at hand for catchers

A young professional baseball catcher, who may receive more than 100 pitches per game thrown at more than 90 miles per hour, is at increased risk of having circulatory abnormalities in his catching hand, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., asked 36 minor-league ballplayers of the various fielding positions whether they experienced pain in either their catching or throwing hands during or between games. Using ultrasound and blood pressure tests, the researchers also assessed whether each hand’s blood vessels had been damaged.

“The majority of the problems were in catchers, and almost all of them were in the gloved hand,” says T. Adam Ginn, an orthopedic surgeon at Wake Forest. All nine catchers described hand pain during games, and several said that they had chronic pain in the hand that was frequently pounded by fastballs. Few of the other players had similar symptoms.

Five of the catchers showed altered blood flow in their gloved hands, a significantly higher proportion than among the other players, the researchers report in the July Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

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