Persistent joint pain and arm function in former baseball players
Bullock GS., Nicholson KF., Waterman BR., Niesen E., Salamh P., Thigpen CA., Shanley E., Devaney LL., Tokish JM., Collins GS., Arden NK., Filbay SR.
Background: Baseball has specific sport and positional demands that may modify joint pain compared with other sports. Persistent joint pain reduces function and is an underlying reason for seeking medical care. The pain and functional status of players after they stop competitive play are unknown. Such knowledge can assist clinicians in creating personalized physical examinations and interventions for baseball players as they transition to retirement. The purpose of this study was to (1) evaluate persistent joint pain and arm function in former baseball players and (2) determine whether playing position is associated with increased odds of joint pain and reduced arm function in former baseball players. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was performed. Eligibility criteria consisted of (1) played ≥1 collegiate baseball season, (2) aged ≥18 years, and (3) formerly played baseball (currently retired). Outcomes assessed included persistent joint pain and Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation (SANE). Explanatory variables included playing position (position, two-way, or pitcher). Multivariable logistic and linear regressions were performed. Models were adjusted for age, body mass index, arm dominance, playing standard, years played baseball, and injury and surgery history. Results: A total of 117 former baseball players participated (age: 36.8 [13.7] years). The mean dominant SANE score was 70.2 (standard deviation 24.1), and the mean nondominant SANE score was 85.2 (standard deviation 19.4). There was no difference in dominant arm SANE scores when stratified by arm injury history (4.6 [95% confidence interval: −14.9, 5.8]) or arm surgery history (−3.8 [95% confidence interval: 13.4, 5.8]). The shoulders had the greatest persistent joint pain prevalence (28% of all participants) and elbows (21% of all participants). There was no relationship between dominant arm pain or function and playing position. Conclusion: This is the first study to demonstrate an increase in dominant arm disability in former baseball players. The high prevalence of persistent arm pain and poor arm function among former baseball players is concerning considering participants were younger than 40 years of age. No differences were observed in arm function when stratifying by arm history, surgery, or position demonstrating the potential relationship between baseball participation and arm disability after cessation of play. Clinicians should consider working with baseball players to develop long-term strategies to maintain joint health, especially in the throwing arm, when baseball players are transitioning to retirement. Future research is needed to understand the long-term effectiveness of clinical treatments and the implications of specific arm injuries such as ulnar collateral ligament tears on persistent arm pain and function.