Part 2: The Science of Post-throwing Protocol
Part 2 in our Series on Arm Injury from the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Conference Dr. Robert Mangine is on staff as the Senior Associated AD of Sports Medicine at the University of Cincinnati as well as the National Director Sports PT Education for Nova Care Rehabilitation. ___________
A LOT of preparation goes into every game. The most disciplined of you will have everything dialed in, from your diet to your uniform, everything is in its place to make sure you can focus on performing at your best. The entire day is spent leading up to the moment the game begins, and when it's over, a sense of accomplishment is no doubt felt. It is easy to fall into the same routine that your teammates and coaches set. But for those of you looking to perform at a high level, stay pain-free, and exceed expectation, this is where preparation must begin. The end of the game is the beginning of your preparation for the next outing.
In a wide ranging study done with professional baseball pitchers, Dr. Mangine and others found that passive range of motion was significantly decreased in the shoulder and elbow immediately after throwing. Additionally, they found range of motion was still decreased 24 hours after throwing and beyond. What's the big deal? When range of motion is decreased, compensations (think small changes in timing of movement and/or angles) occur in the throwing motion and injuries become more prevalent. As the season moves on, this tightness/compensation relationship can create a habit of unhealthy stress on the shoulder and elbow. If you finish a game and walk to the car without a pitcher-specific cool down, you are significantly increasing the time it will take you to recover. What can I do? This compounding tightness can be avoided with a few simple disciplines immediately after throwing. 1) Light resistance band exercises will stimulate the muscles around the shoulder and elbow, bringing blood which will both heal tissue and decrease tightness.
2) Light stretching in internal rotation (sleeper stretch) and external rotation (PVC pipe) immediately after throwing (while you still feel loose)
3) "Functional throws" with a Durathro sock will drastically improve recovery time by increasing deceleration strength (slowing the arm down) causing the stress that a throw without the "sock" would cause.
By spending 10-15 minutes on your recovery immediately after throwing, you will be more prepared to endure a full season at the top of your game!