I'm not just talking about social distancing. I mean rubbing elbows after an injury, more specifically and elbow injury during baseball.
Let me give you some background. I am a Physical Therapist that played softball my entire life, I was an All-American 3rd baseman in college, and I spent A LOT of time in my college athletic training room and at physical therapy myself. I owe my love of PT to my own injuries and amazing people who got me back on the field (Shout out to Stephanie Fadal PT, DPT and Christanie Monreal DAT, LAT, ATC and Caitlin Hall LAT, ATC - THANKS GUYS!).
All that to say- I'm excited to start my baseball/softball blog series! Today's Subject: Elbows!
1 in 10,000. Thats the ratio we are going to talk about. This means every time a high school baseball player steps on the field (practice or game) he has a 1 in 10,000 chance of getting an elbow injury. On average each player has 100 opportunities for an injury over the course of 1 high school season. Over half of the elbow injuries that occur in baseball occur to pitchers, and injuries are more likely in a competitive opportunity compared to practice. (1)
So lets talk about prevention and care for your elbow, because those injury rates are only going up. Playing at any level requires you to take care of your most valuable piece of equipment- YOU. Just think, your parents spend so much time and money running you all over the county or country in some cases and you get hurt? Lame.
#1 STOP THROWING WEIGHTED BALLS. STOP IT.
Yes, it can increase velocity, but do you know why? Research's best guess is that it increases external rotation ROM. There are other ways to increase external rotation (Whether it's a good idea is a different subject). Here's the biggest why you should stop this old mans trick. In one study 24% of the players throwing weighted balls sustained an injury, while none of the athletes in the control group (no weighted balls) sustained an injury. (2)
#2 Strengthen your forearm
The stress put on your ligament on the inside of your elbow while pitching exceeds its threshold pretty often, the muscles that help it out are your WRIST flexors. Here's 2 exercises to add in to your warm up routine to strengthen those up!
^Grab your band with your non-throwing arm and hold securely. With Throwing arm down by your side grip the band and pull down moving only your wrist. Pull and Relax very slowly.
^ Grab a hammer! Top video :Hold it out in front of you with your throwing arm. Slowly, using only your wrist rotate the hammer in a half circle turning your hand up and down.
Bottom video: Hold the hammer upright and move the hammer towards and away from you. Again, Go slow.
#3 Monitor your shoulder range on motion
Like I mentioned in #1 - increased external range of motion at your shoulder MIGHT increase your velocity, HOWEVER, the more external rotation you have the less stable the front of your shoulder gets. Making sure you maintain a healthy amount of internal rotation can keep your shoulder in a healthy balance. Heres a good stretch to add to your stretching routine following a pitching workout.
Lay on your side and place the arm you are laying on straight out in front of you. Bend your elbow and gently press your hand towards the table with the opposite arm.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
I know we missed A LOT of baseball and softball this year, and I am just as sad as you are, I promise. My last piece of advice is to not try to squeeze in more and more pitching when you know your arm needs a day off. I DO NOT MEAN TO DO NOTHING - Work out that shoulder, do all the stability work you want, but don't throw at competition level every day. Don't be dumb just because you missed baseball.
Thanks for reading! Share with your baseball friends, kids, players, dads, coaches, really everyone.
Kelley Hale PT, DPT
Owner/Physical Therapist of Legacy Physical Therapy and Wellness
Pytiak, Andrew V., et al. "An epidemiological comparison of elbow injuries among United States high school baseball and softball players, 2005-2006 through 2014-2015."Sports health10.2 (2018): 119-124.
Reinold, Michael M., et al. "Effect of a 6-week weighted baseball throwing program on pitch velocity, pitching arm biomechanics, passive range of motion, and injury rates."Sports health10.4 (2018): 327-333.