6 Tips for Baseball and Softball Athletes

Posted on February 23, 2015

Baseball and softball season are here! Sport and Spine of Corvallis and Albany want to make sure that you have an excellent season without injury, so check out our 6 tips to stay healthy on the diamond this year!

1. Have a good dynamic warm-up before throwing and between innings

    • Baseball/softball is a unique sport in that you can have long periods of rest and then short periods where you need to go from 0 to 100% with sprinting or throwing in a split second!  It’s this quick extreme demand that can put you at high risk for injuries.
    • A quick dynamic (moving) warm-up can wake up your proprioceptors (nerves in your tissues) that trigger reflexes to have your muscles control your joints to avoid positions of injury.  Check out our upper and full body dynamic warm-ups below!

2. Improve or maintain your mid back, pec, lat, shoulder, and hip mobility

    • Throwing a ball and swinging a bat require a tremendous amount of rotation from your foot and ankle all the way up to your shoulder.  Out of all those, our shoulder tends to have the most available mobility; if you’re stiff anywhere along the chain, you will put undo stress on your shoulder requiring extra movement that will eventually lead to pain
    • Check out our shoulder, thoracic, and hip mobility playlists on YouTube for some ideas on how to make sure you have the proper full body mobility to decrease stress on your shoulder

3. Strengthen the proper shoulder muscles the proper way

    • We always say, there’s never a wrong exercise, just a wrongly prescribed one.  This is often the case with shoulder exercise.  The shoulder is a complex joint in that the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus (arm bone) both move and need to move at the right ratio together – we call this, scapulohumeral rhythm.  With that we need the right shoulder blade muscles strong enough to control the shoulder blade, and we need the rotator cuff muscles to be strong enough to control the humerus.
    • To synchronize this movement well it takes some proper cueing and training from a movement expert, such as a Physical Therapist.  We often run our upper body patients, especially our throwers, through the Thrower’s 10 exercise routine. We will soon have videos up about how to do these right on our You Tube channel under the “shoulder strengthening” playlist.

4. Strengthen your core and your hips

    • As we touched on with mobility in #2.  With strength, the shoulder also tends to get overworked. In throwing, we really rely on a lot of hip strength propelling our trunk and shoulder forward from our foot.  If you don’t have proper hip power and control, you’ll be over-throwing with your shoulder muscles which will ultimately lead to injury.
      • Even if your hip is strong, your core also needs to be strong to transfer that energy from your hip to your shoulder.  If your core is unstable, you will lose a lot of that energy and both your hip and shoulder will be overworked, ultimately leading to injury.
    • We will soon have our Baseball/Softball Big 5 Exercises in the You Tube playlists as well

5. Stop throwing when you have any kind of soreness

    • Soreness with throwing is NOT NORMAL. I know, I played ball, soreness with throwing is normal if you ask any baseball player, but it’s not supposed to be.
    • The reason our shoulder gets sore is because our muscles are fatiguing and allowing the humerus (arm bone) to move more in the joint which ultimately will lead to future pain that both you and I want to avoid!  I know it’s tough, but if your arm is sore, stop throwing.  You may miss out on the rest of that practice or game, but you’ll get to play in the next one and not miss months because of an injury created by your sore shoulder being “normal”.
    • Especially early in the season, work gradually into throwing. The “Throw Like a Pro” app has an excellent return to throwing protocol that I’d recommend all athletes to start 1-2 months before actually returning to full time practice and training for a season
      • https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/throw-like-pro-throw-faster/id885558423?mt=8

6. Take a throwing break in your off season!

    • This is the most important thing you can do.  Give yourself a break from throwing!  I’d recommend at least 3 months.  If you can only do 1-2 months, at least do that twice in a year.  Letting your shoulder rest and recover from throwing is important.  If you cross train and do other fun activities such as jog, resistance training (properly), swim, row, you’ll be surprised at how you may come back throwing better and harder than before!

This past summer, Dr. James Andrews released a position statement for the American Sports Medicine Institure in regard to the rising epidemic of elbow injuries in the spring of 2014.  You can find the full statement here1: http://www.asmi.org/research.php?page=research&section=TJpositionstatement .

Among discussing risk factors with shoulder and elbow injury he said, “research has shown that the amount of competitive pitching and pitching while fatigued are strongly linked to injury.2,3,4 Other risk factors may include pitching on multiple teams,5 pitching year-round,6 playing catcher when not pitching,7 poor pitching mechanics,8,9and poor physical conditioning.10,11 Recommendations for youth pitchers are shown on the ASMI Position Statement for Youth Pitchers12 “.

So, our 6 tips aren’t just our opinion, but there’s some literature backing it up!  Hope these tips are helpful.  To pitch well, our body must be functioning with proper mobility and strength from head to toe – most of us aren’t quite up to snuff at least at one of these joints. If you want to make sure you’re in throwing shape, give us a call in Corvallis at 541-752-0545 or Albany at 541-928-1411 and schedule an evaluation and we’ll make sure your whole body is ready to throw!

Happy throwing!

–  Dane Happeny, PT, DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy

References:

  1. Andrews J. Position Statement for Tommy John Injuries in Baseball Pitchers. American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI). July 2014. Accessed Feb 1, 2015. Available at: http://www.asmi.org/research.php?page=research&section=TJpositionstatement
  2. Yang J, Mann BJ, Guettler JH, et al. Risk-Prone Pitching Activities and Injuries in Youth Baseball: Findings From a National Sample. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42(6):1456-1463.
  3. Register-Mihalik JK, Oyama S, Marshall SW, Mueller FO. Pitching Practices and Self-Reported Injuries Among Youth Baseball Pitchers: A Descriptive Study. Athl Train Sport Heal Care. 2012;4(1):11-20.
  4. Olsen SJ, Fleisig GS, Dun S, Loftice J, Andrews JR. Risk factors for shoulder and elbow injuries in adolescent baseball pitchers. Am J Sports Med. 2006;34(6):905-912.
  5. Fleisig GS, Andrews JR, Cutter GR, et al. Risk of serious injury for young baseball pitchers: a 10-year prospective study. Am J Sports Med. 2011;39(2):253-257.
  6. Davis JT, Limpisvasti O, Fluhme D, et al. The effect of pitching biomechanics on the upper extremity in youth and adolescent baseball pitchers. Am J Sports Med. 2009;37(8):1484-1491.
  7. Fortenbaugh D, Fleisig GS, Andrews JR. Baseball pitching biomechanics in relation to injury risk and performance. Sports Health. 2009;1(4):314-320.
  8. Trakis JE, McHugh MP, Caracciolo P a, Busciacco L, Mullaney M, Nicholas SJ. Muscle strength and range of motion in adolescent pitchers with throwing-related pain: implications for injury prevention. Am J Sports Med. 2008;36(11):2173-2178.
  9. Tyler TF, Mullaney MJ, Mirabella MR, Nicholas SJ, McHugh MP. Risk Factors for Shoulder and Elbow Injuries in High School Baseball Pitchers: The Role of Preseason Strength and Range of Motion. Am J Sports Med. 2014.
  10. ASMI. ASMI Position Statement for Youth Baseball Pitchers. Available at: http://www.asmi.org/asmiweb/position_statement.htm. 2011;(March):2010-2011.

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