The catcher’s position might be the most physically demanding role in any ball game. Holding the semi-squatted position while directing the pitcher is no easy task. Needless to say, it takes its toll on the knees as you go further in your career. However, one way to escape career-threatening knee damage is to practice wearing knee savers. It’s a simple accessory designed to make it easier on the catcher’s knees.
As the name implies, knee savers are designed to protect your knees. But there are a lot of debates about the effectiveness of this gear. Many believe that it is not worth it and it does more harm than good. Though I have used a couple of knee savers back in my days, many coaches strictly advise against using them. If you want a short answer, all I can say is – it comes to an individual’s playstyle. Everyone has a style of their own, likes/dislikes, and whether or not wearing a knee saver makes sense is up to the player himself.
I’m not here to philosophize about playstyle and mindset. I’m going to break down this debate and show you why the opposing parties aren’t willing to budge. So, are knee savers really bad for catchers, or is it just a myth? That is the question that I want to explore in this article.
Do Professional Catchers Use Knee Savers?
Well, it depends. While there are certainly a lot of catchers who prefer not wearing knee savers, there are many who consider it an essential part of their equipment. In fact, I found that about 47 to 48 percent of professional baseball players use knee savers in my research (and personal experience). As you can see, about half the total catchers playing baseball professionally wear knee savers. Another thing that I noticed, most of the players using knee savers are seasoned veterans who already have a couple of years under their belt. So, I would say the players switch to using knee savers only when they find any issue with their knees. And you can see that the MLB home is exactly 50-50 on this debate. So, you can’t really make a decision by looking at the numbers alone.
Should Catchers Wear Knee Savers?
As I said before, it depends mostly on the situation and preference of the player. For example, I never used knee savers in my youth when I was playing in a little league or high school. However, as I grew older and felt growing pain in my knees from squatting throughout the game, I had to start using knee savers. So, to answer your question, I would only suggest using knee savers if you have to.
Wearing a knee saver does not offer any extra benefit. Though having that extra bit of support may seem like a good investment, it is not necessary at all unless you have a knee condition to worry about. If you are young, fit, and energetic – no knee savers necessary. On the other hand, you’re aging, fit but with pain in a few joints, and energetic but not as you once were – get a knee saver.
Should Youth Catchers Wear Knee Savers?
I would say no. Unless the youth catcher in question is suffering from a muscle injury or chronic knee pain, there is no reason for him to wear knee savers. His time would be better spent working on his fitness and training his knees to become stronger so that they can support proper catcher’s posture without discomfort.
Do Knee Savers Make Catchers Lazy?
There seems to be a debate among many coaches that knee savers can make a catcher lazy. While there may be some truth to this, I do not fully agree with it. I believe that knee savers, while certainly not essential for a physically fit catcher, can be helpful in certain situations. For instance, if the catcher has a specific knee condition that causes him pain when sitting in the semi-crouched position, then a knee saver is quite helpful. However, some coaches believe that using a knee saver is a stark sign of laziness, especially when you do not need to.
I understand where this point of view comes from. Coaches feel like the comfort might get to the catcher’s head. Plus, there’s the slight added weight of the knee saver. However, the discomfort getting to the catcher’s head is way worse. My opinion is that if you are young and still have ages of good fitness ahead of you, do not use a knee saver. YOU DO NOT NEED IT TO BE A BETTER CATCHER. But if you have a specific knee condition that can cause issues with your catching ability, by all means, go for it.
Why Do Catchers Have Bad Knees?
The semi-squatting form that a catcher has to take is not very easy to pull off – especially when you have to do it for hours on end in the summer heat. According to statistics, the average baseball game lasts for 3 hours and 5 minutes. So, take half of it out – and you’d have to semi-squat for 1.5 hours. Unless you train rigorously, you will hardly be able to hold it for more than 2 minutes. So, it is really not uncommon that many catchers develop knee conditions as they spend more years playing.
Some of the common knee conditions that catchers are known to have – are meniscus tears, tendonitis, muscle strains, etc. However, you can prevent a lot of damage to your knee with proper training. The severity and intensity of the knee condition can vary depending on the physical fitness of the player. Plus, it’s not just the hours and hours of semi-squatting. You also have to factor in the home plate blocks, the rough-as-hell tackles and slides, the freakshow rebounds, and a lot of more unpredictable shit that can (and will) happen.
Let me just quote Dan Rather here –” To be a catcher is sort of like being a cowboy, without the romance of the Old West. “
It’s hard, dirty, and often dangerous work. And old catchers, like old cowboys, tend to walk a little more gingerly than the rest of us. I think this quote is the succinct and most accurate depiction of a catcher.
Do MLB Catchers Have Knee Problems?
Typically, Major League Baseball players undergo intense workout and training routines to ensure they are playing at their peak physical condition. Those playing at that level are given the best training possible by the management of their respective teams.
Since MLB catchers have a better physique, they tend to have fewer knee problems. Still, a lot of MLB catchers, while nearing the end of their career, develop some knee conditions. That is why many catchers switch to 1st base as they get older to protect their knees. This is not true for every player out there, though.
How do I strengthen My Knees as a Catcher?
If you want to play in the big leagues as a professional catcher, you need to take care of your physical fitness. More specifically, you need to strengthen your knee and make sure you are capable of staying in that squatted position without any discomfort or pain. Stretching is a must before you start your training. The last thing you want is to head into the practice session and pull a muscle. Make sure you warm up properly before each game to help your muscles relax.
To strengthen your knees, you need to focus on specific workouts that strengthen your tendons and muscles in that area. Squats are obviously the main exercise you have to focus on. In addition, I found that the one-legged squat helps out a lot in building your balance and knee strength.
Other good exercises to strengthen knees include sit-to-stand, lunges, leg lifts, and side leg lifts. I also try to incorporate a few calf raises and step-ups as they can help strengthen your calf muscles which, in turn, improves your overall posture. And keeping the right posture is extremely important for a catcher.
If You Do Need a Knee Saver – Here’s a Quick Suggestion:
If you were to ask me which knee saver I would suggest, my answer would always be the Under Armour Knee Savers. I have already discussed some of the best knee savers before, and though this one is not the most feature-heavy option, it is definitely the one that gives me the most convenience.
Under Armour Knee Savers
Firstly, this knee saver comes in two sizes, one for adults and one for youth. Personally, I did not have to get mine when I was still playing youth baseball. So this review is fully based on my experience with the adult size of the unit. Most knee savers you find on the market are simply glorified pads that you attach to your shin guards. There is no practical way to secure knee pads to your knees on its own unless you are investing in a separate harness which costs quite a bit. That is one of the main things people hate about this gear.
With the Under Armour Knee savers, you will get a built-in sliding harness that lets you securely anchor it to your knees. And once you tightly lock it in place, it will not slide or fall off. This makes the experience drastically better for just about any catcher.
In addition, this knee saver comes with a multi-level foam construction that ensures you get all the comfort and support you would need out of it. So even if you have severe knee issues, you would be able to enjoy your game without any discomfort, though why you would want to play in that condition is beyond me.
Another thing I really liked about this one is its availability in different colors. It allowed me to buy the knee saver that matched my uniform at that time. I know it seems a bit childish to worry about color, but to me, looks never take a backseat when it comes to sports gear.
Overall, I would give this set of knee savers a solid 4.8 out of 5. It comes at a reasonable price, offers good support, and also lets you mount it without any other accessories. If you need to get a knee saver for yourself, this one is worth thorough consideration.
The thing is, even the best catcher’s gear will not protect your knees. And if you have any preexisting medical issues in your knees, without knee savers, it would be nearly impossible for you to enjoy the game as a keeper. My advice is to only use it if you need it. If you can still play the game and train up your knee, then relying on an extra piece of gear is not very wise. Using a knee saver is absolutely fine for people with issues. In fact, I would strongly recommend it.
I hope this article has busted all the myths you had around knee savers. Now, you know what to do. So, why not go to that inner baseball circle and act like a pro, eh? Cheers!