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gailcalled's avatar

How does a major league baseball catcher keep his knees from disintegrating?

Asked by gailcalled (52725 points ) October 27th, 2010

Although I rarely watch baseball, I did tonight and wondered about the position that the catcher assumes. Would it lead to early osteoarthritis of the knees? And what keeps him from toppling over (as I do when I try to crouch)?

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14 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

Very strong quadraceps muscles.

gailcalled's avatar

Even so… what about the constant and repetitive motion of the knee joint? I do daily exercises to strengthen my quadriceps, but my knees ache a lot.

janbb's avatar

I would think they do give out at a certain point.

Rarebear's avatar

@gailcalled But you’re not a major league catcher. The knees are just acting as a fulcrum for the quads. Sure, sometimes knees go out, but they don’t have a lot of sideways motion that, say, a running back has.

annielorena's avatar

I played softball as a child. I was the catcher from the time I was 5 until I was around 14. In the same squat position as in baseball. Around 15 or 16 I noticed I could not walk up stairs with out hearing a grinding noise, with pain in my knees. That and my knee caps were not centered. The doctor I went to see said that my cartilage in my knees was gone, and all of my ligaments and tendons had stretched. They were no longer “holding” my knee together. He said that I would probably need assistance in walking by the time I was 30. I was told that if I had never quit playing this would not have happened… the old use it or lose it. They have gotten so bad that my bf ask as if I had pills in my pocket. I was at the bottom of the stairs he was at the top. What he heard was the grinding. Although I think now they use these http://www.hitrunscore.com/a3840-wilson-catchers-knee-supports.html

gailcalled's avatar

@Rarebear: So I should give up my dream to be a running back?

@annielorena: I find it hard to believe that continuing to use injured tendons, ligaments and invisible cartilage would have improved your knee pain. Use it and abuse it perhaps?

woodcutter's avatar

they probably all suffer later in life from that. Hopefully they are smart with their money while it’s coming in so they are financially secure later.

Whitsoxdude's avatar

That’s another reason why catchers don’t run very fast if they’ve been at it a while.

jaytkay's avatar

Yogi Berra is still ambulatory at 85 I think. But I guess the greatest catcher ever isn’t gonna be representative.

perg's avatar

Here’s an example. Look at the column on the right (Transactions/Injuries/Suspensions) and see how many times he ends on the DL for knee problems. I remember from his later days with the Mets that there was constant talk of shifting Piazza to first base because his knees were wearing out. He played at first a bit in 2004 but wasn’t very good at it, so he shifted back to catcher until he retired.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Catching is the most demanding position in baseball, both physically and mentally. The catcher not only has the job of catching each of the pitchers’ 120 or more pitches that don’t get hit by a batter, but he has to know each batter’s weakness, and his pitcher’s strengths, to call for each pitch, too, including the type of pitch and location. And catching those pitches isn’t easy when they have all kinds of movement, he’s working behind a batter who often fouls the pitch into all parts of the catcher’s body (and that padding only helps so much), and sometimes a batter’s follow-through on a strike will end up hitting the catcher on the head or shoulders. In addition, he has the job of helping to position fielders—he’s often the best strategist on the team, and has to be—and he fairly often has to make the longest throws to attempt to catch runners stealing bases, as he catches the pitch, rises from his crouch and throws (wearing all of that gear) over the pitcher’s mound to second base.

He’s also moving on every bunt, whether he gets the ball or not, and on most ground balls to the infield, he’s running with the batter toward first base to back up the first baseman in case the thrown ball gets by him.

You would think that his knees would give out, and they do hurt pretty often, but at least he’s not often called on to run fast. Most major league catchers can’t run, precisely for the reason that you suspect. And their knees do hurt from all of the demands placed on them.

But it’s his hands that take the worst beating. The hand in the mitt, is pounded—hard!—by most of the pitches thrown and caught, but his throwing hand is very often battered and bruised as well, because he has to use it sometimes to help catch the thrown pitch, or to attempt to catch a fouled third strike (which will make the batter out), and putting that unguarded hand in harm’s way often does harm it.

Even though the pitchers get all of the ink, it seems, and they do work hard, too, every fifth day, the best catchers are called upon to play every day that they can possibly do that, and no pitcher was ever great without a great battery-mate behind the plate.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
gailcalled's avatar

@Tamara: Personally, I can’t imagine that a girdle would heal a soft tissue injury. People with knee problems (like my mother) use an adjustible elastic and velcro knee brace in addition to appropriate exercises.

Tamara's avatar

@gailcalled, you didn’t read my whole post. I can’t imagen but I personally know what has been working for me. I don’t see why my post was moderated off-topic when it had received 3 great answers but it doesn’t matter. I was making a comment to another answerer which I didn’t know this site does not have a comment space, so anyways, try whatever works.

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