One thing baseball fans might notice about hitters is their elbow guard. Many times you’ll see hitters go up to the plate without any type of additional gear on, but there are a handful of hitters who bat while wearing an elbow guard. Why do baseball players wear elbow guards?
As a general rule, baseball players wear an elbow guard to protect their elbow from wild pitches. When a player gets hit by a pitch in their elbow, a protective guard will reduce the impact of the pitch, lowering the chance of an elbow injury.
Elbow guards aren’t a common type of baseball equipment, but it seems to be gaining more and more in popularity. Let’s look at some of the reasons why baseball players wear elbow guards.
What Does an Elbow Guard Do in Baseball?
Although elbow guards are still not too common, they are one piece of equipment I’ve seen being used more and more by hitters – especially in Major League Baseball. But those who have never used an elbow guard might be wondering what it actually does. Let’s go over why baseball players use an elbow guard.
Elbow Guards Reduce Impact of Being Hit By a Pitch
The biggest reason baseball players use an elbow guard is to reduce the impact of a ball if they were to get hit by a pitch. Elbow guards reduce the impact of the ball by absorbing some of the shock that comes from being hit by a pitch.
Getting hit by a pitch is never fun, but it can be an even worse experience when you get hit in the elbow with a fastball. In fact, I was hit in the elbow with a fastball twice in one season so I know from experience that a wild pitch to the elbow can easily remove someone from a game.
Using an elbow guard helps to prevent elbow injuries if a pitcher misses their spot and ends up hitting you in the elbow.
Players Use Elbow Guards as a Precaution
Getting hit by a pitch is a fairly rare occurrence. Not all players who have been hit by a pitch get hit in the elbow, so this means that getting hit in the elbow is an even more unlikely event.
Even though getting hit in the elbow by a pitch is rare, hitters wear an elbow guard as a precaution. In the unlikely event they are hit by a pitch in their elbow, they’ll be prepared for it with their elbow guard.
This logic makes a lot of sense in professional baseball, where pitchers normally throw over 90 miles per hour. Getting hit in the elbow can easily sideline a hitter for days with an elbow injury, which also carries the risk of a backup player having more opportunities to compete with them for their starting role.
Elbow Guards Protect the Throwing Arm of Some Players
Some players may not see the point in wearing an elbow guard when batting because their throwing arm is usually facing away from the pitcher. And after all, it’s not as big of a deal taking a pitch off your glove arm as it is with your throwing arm.
There are a handful of players who benefit from wearing an elbow guard because they are either switch-hitters or they hit on the opposite side of the plate of their dominant hand. As an example – I throw right-handed, but I’ve always batted left-handed.
For these players, their throwing arm will face the pitcher. Because their throwing arm is facing the pitcher, they are at more risk of injuring their throwing arm from being hit with a pitch. So using an elbow guard will help protect their throwing arm.
Protecting your throwing arm with an elbow guard is especially important for pitchers. If you happen to be one of the pitchers who bats with their throwing arm facing the pitcher, wearing an elbow guard can help ensure you’ll continue to pitch without risking an injury.
Do Elbow Guards Hinder Performance at the Plate?
It’s easy to wonder about the trade-off between how protected a hitter can be and how effective they are at the plate. I also wondered if elbow guards would negatively impact a player’s swing so I tried a handful of elbow guards while in a batting cage to see how well they worked while swinging.
In general, elbow guards don’t impact a baseball player’s swing. Elbow guards may feel a little uncomfortable to wear if you’re not used to wearing one, but after some time it starts to feel normal to wear an elbow guard while swinging a bat.
My favorite elbow guard was the G-Form Elite 2 Batter Elbow Guard (links to Amazon). It was comfortable, flexible, and it didn’t impact my swing at all. This elbow guard also has technology where the pad will harden on impact, which should reduce the chances of an injury.
You can also watch the quick clip below to see this elbow guard in action. You’ll see at the beginning of the video how flexible it is, but then you’ll also hear how hard it sounds when he gets hit by a pitch.
Which Elbow Do You Wear an Elbow Guard On?
We have two elbows, but is it necessary to wear an elbow guard on both arms while batting? Or should you only wear one elbow guard?
As a general rule, you only need to wear an elbow guard on the elbow that is facing the pitcher. Right-handed batters will wear an elbow guard on their left arm while left-handed batters will wear an elbow guard on their right arm.
There is no rule against wearing an elbow guard on both arms while batting, but it would likely seem weird to your teammates if you were to wear an elbow guard on both arms. It’s very unlikely you’ll be hit on your elbow that is facing the catcher so there’s no added benefit to wearing an elbow guard on that back elbow.
Should I Wear an Elbow Guard in Baseball?
Some great baseball players wear elbow guards while other great players don’t bother to wear elbow guards. This makes a lot of baseball players wonder if they should wear an elbow guard at all.
In general, you should wear an elbow guard if you want to protect your elbow while batting. Elbow guards can help prevent injury from a wild pitch, but it is not necessary to wear an elbow guard in baseball. Wearing an elbow guard is a personal choice for every player.
The one great thing about baseball is that there are a lot of games and a lot of practices, which means players have opportunities to experiment with different types of baseball equipment. There is a lot of equipment to try out so take some time to see what you like the best and what you can live without.