… When learning how to pitch, also learn how pitching injuries occur and how they can be prevented
… Repetitive motions and overuse account for most pitching injuries
… Poor pitching techniques put undue stress on your arm and shoulder
… Use proper strengthening and stretching techniques to condition your arm and shoulder, as well as your lower extremities, hips, pelvis, torso and spine
Now that it’s off-season, baseball and softball pitchers can focus on a good rest and recovery, as well as a strength-building program to be ready when spring training comes around again. Oftentimes off-season activities also include rehab and injury prevention.
Pitchers spend a lot of time learning how to throw a ball. You learn the mechanics and motions of pitching and practice your technique for hours. You want to be able to throw fast and accurately to strike a batter out.
Pitching isn’t a normal action for the human arm, so pitchers are very susceptible to injuries. All your practice will come to a standstill when you develop one of the many injuries that plague even the best players. When this occurs, you need to take a break from playing and let your arm heal.
You also want to work with a physical therapist to establish a comprehensive rehab program that focuses on reducing pain and inflammation, normalizing motion, enhancing dynamic stabilization of the shoulder joint, plus improving posture and your lower body mechanics.
That’s why serious pitchers should keep common causes of pitching injuries in mind when practicing and playing their favorite sport.
REPETITION & OVERUSE – Repetition injuries are the most common form of pitching injuries. In pitching, much of the work is done by your arm, with little variation in motion. This means the same parts of your arm perform the same movements again and again and again. This kind of overuse wears out the tissues in your joints, causing painful inflammation and tears to your tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
You can prevent overuse injuries by giving your body a chance to rest. Major League Baseball (MLB) provides a list of recommended pitch counts for young pitchers to prevent overuse, and suggests that they take at least a three-month break from playing each year.
For professional and semi-pro pitchers – yours is a long season, at least seven to eight months of throwing. Many pitching coaches will suggest a rest from pitching for six to eight weeks, using the time to build strength of your entire body before resuming a throwing regimen.
POOR TECHNIQUE – Every pitcher knows there’s a right way to throw the ball to get the results you want. Sometimes, however, you ignore the finer details of throwing mechanics and habitually throw in a way that puts undue stress on your arm and shoulder. When you’re not pitching in a way that also protects your arm, you’re setting yourself up for injury.
Valgus extension, or “Pitcher’s Elbow,” is a common example of this. The mechanics of pitching cause your forearm and hand to snap to the lateral side of your elbow, which can wear out the cartilage there and cause pain and swelling. Changing your pitching motion can prevent this.
Some pitchers experience what is called ulnar neuritis. The ulnar nerve is the largest unprotected nerve in the body and wraps around your elbow. Pitching with your arm at an unnatural angle can irritate the nerve and cause a painful shocking sensation.
Every pitcher should work with their coach to understand the mechanics of pitching and follow proper technique to prevent unnecessary injuries.
LACK OF CONDITIONING – No matter how much you know about proper pitching or how much you practice, if you aren’t in good physical shape, you are likely to hurt yourself. For pitchers, this means developing good arm strength and stamina year-round. Use proper strengthening and stretching exercises to prepare your whole body for the playing season and always warm up before practice or a game.
If you are not in shape, you can easily overwork your arm and injure yourself early in the season. Stress fractures in your elbow are a common result of pitching with poor arm strength. If the muscles around your elbow aren’t strong enough to absorb the shock of the pitching motion, your bone takes the shock, too and fractures over time.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty of pitching mechanics isn’t complete without examining the LPHC (lumbopelvic-hip complex): the abdomen, proximal lower extremity, hips, pelvis, torso and spine. Studies show this area of the body can contribute 50% of force to your overhead throwing motion, increasing ball speed. It’s all about perfect form and posture control during the pitching windup and stride -lead foot contact, maximum shoulder external rotation, ball release and maximum shoulder internal rotation- that allows the body to generate the greatest amount of force. As a result, keeping the LPHC primed and strong is just as essential as arm, shoulder and elbow strength and conditioning in preventing injuries.
As a pitcher, take a total body approach when it comes to conditioning, training and rehabilitative care. Posture control and body weight exercises that target the LPHC are ideal to add to your off-season routine for improving your pitching technique as well as injury prevention.
At True Sports, we’re sports-focused because you’re sports-focused. It’s where the best physical therapists in Baltimore and Maryland provide the highest level of sports physical therapy and expertise you need to get back to your sport. With five convenient state-of-the-art locations to choose from, any athlete who takes their rehab seriously can get awesome care and extraordinary results. Select your location and schedule an appointment and have True Sports get you back to your team. For questions about insurance or self-pay rates, please call our office at 1-401-946-1672.