Spring is here (or eventually will be here if you live in the Northeast!) and with it, inevitably, will be an influx of baseball and softball players with arm injuries coming into my physical therapy clinic. When I talk to these athletes, typically they tell me they do very little to take care of their throwing arms. Even at the youth level, athletes cannot simply jog out to their positions and play. It’s important for an athlete to properly train and prepare his or her body for the demands of the sport. Today I want to review what arm care is and offer some simple tips that your youth athlete can use to help reduce injury and improve performance.
What is an arm care program?
If you Google “arm care,” all kinds of band exercise routines and weighted ball programs will show up. Though these kinds of routines may be a component of a proper arm care program, a good routine should be more comprehensive than that. Proper arm care should include a preseason program, pregame warm up, in game routine, cool down, rest and recovery.
It is unrealistic and even dangerous to expect athletes to be able to show up without preparing and participate in a highly repetitive throwing sport like baseball or softball. Athletes generally are throwing much harder at younger ages than they have in the past and this leads to increased injury rates. Athletes should participate in a preseason regimen that includes both a long toss program and a strengthening program for the muscles related to the throwing motion (the rotator cuff, scapula muscles, core and hips). You should work with a strength and conditioning specialist who is familiar with and, if possible, specializes in working with baseball and softball players. Playing other sports is also key as this helps keep your athlete in shape and improves overall athleticism.
Pregame and practice warm up
Pregame and practice is a time to get both your body and mind ready for the upcoming event. It should include a dynamic warm up for the whole body, possibly some band work for the muscles around the shoulder and elbow, and some long toss. Band work and long toss should be light, as athletes do not want to go in to a game or practice fatigued. Fatigue increases risk of injury by 36X.
In-game arm care tips
During the game or practice, a player should keep moving to stay loose. Baseball and softball are unique sports in that you may be standing for long periods and then suddenly need to sprint all out after the ball. Moving, even if it’s lightly bouncing in place, will help keep your muscles warm and loose. Be sure to keep moving in the dugout, too, as it’s easy to tighten up during long innings. Follow the new Pitchsmart guidelines for pitch count numbers which will help reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries. Pay attention to the overall volume of throws as well. Sometimes we count the actual pitches in the game, but don’t consider how much throwing an athlete is doing before and after he or she pitches.
Postgame arm care for pitchers and position players
Postgame arm care should consist of light stretching and icing if the athlete finds it helpful. I am often asked about whether to ice or not. My personal opinion is that unless an athlete finds that it bothers his or her arm, why not? It’s easy to do and tends to help speed up the recovery process. Finding a good manual therapist who can perform soft tissue massage and stretching can also help that recovery process along.
Proper arm care is a key component to keeping baseball and softball players healthy. It’s never too early to get your athlete on a good arm care program that will keep him or her on the field this season!
Complete Game Physical Therapy is ready to answer your questions, schedule your appointment, and get you back in the game! Contact us today 978-710-7204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org