Strike People Out: How to Protect Your Arm

"Every year the MLB spends $1.5 billion on pitchers salaries which is more than the combined cost of every starting quarterback in the NFL and the top 200 NBA salaries put together. To say the pitcher, and thus the throwing arm is a valuable commodity, would be an understatement." Jeff Passan (The Arm).

Simple way to protect your arm, throw 9 pitches every inning and be done with it. Three up three down, less wear and tear, and probably at some point a big chunk of that $1.5 billion noted above. Clearly, if it was that simple this blog would stop here. Unfortunately this is not the case.

In this 3-part blog I am going to attempt to tie together some information from some of the best minds in the business including Kyle Boddy (Driveline Baseball), Eric Cressey (Cressey Performance), and Mike Reinold (PT, Former Boston Red Sox Therapist, 2007 World Series). Along with these great minds we will add from our experience with elite baseball athletes and extensive education in human performance with various performance groups including ALTIS a worldwide leader in track athletes and peak performance, Gray Institute the Founders of Applied Functional Science and Chain Reaction Biomechanics, and the POSE method by Dr. Nicholas Romanov which applies physics and biomechanics through various poses in all skillful movements capitalizing on gravity, mass, and the altering of perception/position.

The number one thing to understand is that injuries are not preventable. Injuries can be reduced and minimized but not completely eliminated. Each day is its own animal and you must approach it as such. Every athlete his finite energy they can expend and with all the things that go on around them stress management is a huge factor not only from sports, but managing life, relationships, school, culture, religion, the list could go on. For more insight into this concept please read my previous blog Injuries in Youth Sports; Preventable or Inevitable. Although they are not entirely preventable that should not discourage us from doing everything in our power to fight back. This in turn helps us or our kids continue to play the game we love at the level we deserve to play it.

Part 1

Warm-up ; 2 Out Drills ; Cooldown : The Things We Need But Don’t Make Time For

In part 1, we will discuss strategies for warming our body up for throwing. Whether it be a skill session, bullpen, practice or game, we must make sure we are ready to go. Too often we hear of people who are experiencing pain or tightness who use throwing as a means to warm-up for throwing. Maybe a couple arm circles here, band exercises there, or static stretching for 5 seconds tops. Kind of like a runner just running slowly to warm-up for running. I know none of us have ever heard of a runner having an injury… not really, they are always hurt or tight or in pain. The arm is just a small component of what should considered in an event that requires the whole body. If we isolate the arm we are missing the big picture.

Also what is often neglected is the fact, that at times, pitchers and fielders alike can sit for long periods while their team is at bat. If the body cools down and is not properly warmed back up, dynamically and systematically, we are asking for soft tissue damage. 2 out drills can help rev the engine and prepare the body to go.

Lastly we will discuss proper elements of a cool down to work on soft tissue adhesions that come from repetitive tissue damage to the whole body. Not just the arm must be considered. However, getting a supply of blood flow to the tissues of the throwing arm can cause a normalization in the recovery process and must be considered.

Part 2

Lifestyle Choices: Sleep, Hydration, Nutrition

People often overlook the must fundamental needs of human performance and jump straight to the fun stuff, the flashy stuff, and the things we see on Instagram. We CANNOT neglect the basic needs we have as humans to prepare for and repair from training and competition. I personally don’t care what your scapulothoracic joint is doing or how well you have glenohumeral rhythm if you aren’t willing to do the basics right. We will discuss sleep strategies and negative effects of sleep debt coming out of Stanford University and Professor Cheri Mah. We will also look at hydration’s Impact on performance especially considering summer ball and early Fall, and basic nutrition principles that are easy to apply. These foundational elements of performance are often overlooked and always under-appreciated. People often admire the height and tops of the pyramids but don’t take time to thank the base of the pyramid thats buried under the sand that allows for the beauty of it to be on display.

Part 3

Off-season, Training, Yearly-Monthly-Weekly-Daily Recovery

In part 3, we will get into what a year should look like for a throwing athlete at various ages. Not only the need for rest and recovery but the benefits of training and athletic development. Strategies will include recovery daily, weekly, monthly, during the season and a yearly training outline. Skill acquisition has a ceiling that is governed by athletic ability. The skill of a NASCAR driver and his likelihood of winning is going to be limited if he is racing in a mini-van. I don’t care who you put in the van. Same thing with throwing athletes. If they aren’t strong, they are limited; if they are not explosive, they are limited; if they are not fast, they are limited; if they are not mobile and stable in the right areas, they are limited; if they go to a pitching coach and cannot kinesthetically (sense of body awareness and position) feel the difference between what they should and should not be doing, they will be limited. This is not to say they cannot have success, but that they will never reach or realize TRUE POTENTIAL.

I hope you join me over this next month as we dive a little deeper into the above topics.

Kye Heck

Director of Training - APEC


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