Baseball is one of the sports that puts the most stress on your joints, especially if you’re a pitcher; the throwing shoulder is under tremendous stress. With the crazy velocities at which you throw a baseball, and with the volume of pitching that accumulates over the years, by the time a pitcher gets to the professional level, he probably has a lot of overuse damage to it (soft tissue restriction, ligament laxity, partial labral damage, etc).
Last Saturday I played in a fund raising dodge ball tournament in Philadelphia. Having not played dodge ball since middle school, and not being a natural thrower (my main sports growing up were hockey and basketball) made me a little worried about my dodge ball performance. As expected I sucked pretty bad, but at least I stole the show with my purple cobra entrance before every game…
A little less glorious when you get hit in the face 30 seconds later, though!
If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, here it is: I was so freakin’ sore the next day it was unreal! My whole shoulder and arm, starting from the attachment of my rhomboids on my spine going all the down to my fingers, were as sore as I’ve ever been in my upper extremity. Rhomboids, levator scapula, rotator cuff, biceps, and all of my forearm muscles were completely smoked.
That just made me realize all the stiffness and soft-tissue restrictions that can build up in a baseball pitcher’s arm when he throws around 100 pitches every time is on the mound. Of course there are some adaptations taking place; the body becomes more efficient at it as you build up your arm strength, stamina and improve your technique, and you don’t get sore (like I did playing dodge ball) every outing. But it still makes you think about all the stress that the shoulder and arm are taking on a weekly basis. And when young baseball pitchers throw with their high school team in the spring, play summer league and fall ball on top of that, the accumulated stress on your arm builds up pretty fast.
That’s why taking care of your pitching arm, using injury prevention strategies, and having an smart (and planned) training program are going to be important factors in the longevity and durability of your arm over time. Soft-tissue work on the rhomboids, levator scapula, rotator cuff, biceps, and forearm muscles is going to be an important part of that ‘arm care’ program.
If I got stiff and extremely sore in these muscles by playing 6 games of dodge ball (realistically ~10 throws per game), I can guarantee you that any baseball pitcher will build up severe restrictions in those same muscles over time, whether they feel it or not.
Do your dedicated self soft-tissue work on a daily basis, go see a qualified active release therapist on a regularly (once a month, as a bare minimum- but College and professional players probably need more) and you’ll increase your chance of staying pain and injury free, and give yourself the best chance to perform at the highest level.
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