What Can We Do To Help Prevent Injuries?
Throwing athletes need regular assessments that look at physical constraints such as strength, mobility, and physical imbalances. How much strength is “enough” and how much mobility is “enough” for your sport and position? Without regular assessments with a physical trainer or physician that are familiar with the unique demands of the throwing athlete, we are launching darts at a target with a blindfold on rather than addressing specific physical constraints that could be holding a player back or putting him or her at risk of injury.
Players need to find a movement pattern when throwing that has no pain. A player throwing with pain will never reach their potential. This is another reason that physical assessment is so crucial. We like to think that pitching “mechanics” are causing pain when in fact it may be that a player cannot move well because of their unique constraints or imbalances. Once pain has been addressed, we can talk about things like sport specific strength training and becoming more efficient in our movement patterns.
Without going through full training cycles with someone like myself, what can you do to help prevent injuries? The data tells us that if you wish to reduce injuries three-fold, then throw less than 100-innings in a year. If you want to decrease injuries four-fold, throw less than 80-pitches per game. And if you want to decrease injuries five-fold, take four months off from game intensity pitching each year (Olsen: AJSM ’06).
What else can we do? We can recognize that:
- Popular training program does not necessarily equal best. Keep this in mind when searching the internet and looking into programs in your local area.
- There are several methods to increasing velocity and all have risk / reward ratios.
- Strength on top of dysfunction = high risk!
- There are safe ways to increase velocity and reduce injuries.
- Long toss and weighted balls are not freebies. “They are equal to and more stressful than pitching off a mound” (Reinold: Sports Health ’18, and Reinold: Sports Health ’20).
- The Chalmers: JSES ’20 study concluded that the UCL ligament over the course of a season becomes more lax. The offseason helps to restore this back to baseline. This does not mean laying off baseball entirely. It means avoiding, for 4-months, game intensity pitching.
- Risk is low and the rewards are high for playing a lot of catch when growth plates are open but the throwing needs to be done with low to moderate stress, not high stress.
- Time spent in the areas of strength training, arm care, throwing and mechanics (or movement patterns), plus age and maturity, may be out of balance with demands.
If you don’t know what to look for, find a professional who does.