Top 9 Reasons Pitchers Get Injured – Part 3

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

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In the final piece of this three part series (click here for Part 2, here for Part 1) on injury and its mechanisms, we’ll look at shutting down, ramping-up and poor strength training programs.

7. Insufficient Shutdown Period – I am going to spend a minute on this one as it hits close to home. While there are many reasons (too many to list in this blog!!) why an 8-10 week shut down is paramount, I’ll just list a couple big ones that pertain to what we do here at RPP in the off-season:

  • Give “lay-back” a break – Pitchers should intentionally lose a few degrees of external rotation each off-season, this allows them to improve their stability on the anterior side of the shoulder and gain back some much needed IR.
  • Allows time to get in some manual resistance cuff exercises – Manual resistance exercises are the single-best option for improving rotator cuff strength. We incorporate them when appropriate all season long in our programming. This allows us to emphasize eccentric strength. Bands are ok, but no where near as powerful.

(Half Kneeling Band Stab. w/ Perturbations)

Here at RPP, cuff strength and scap stability work, as well as mobility work, are included in every program we write. Throwing year-round without a break works against many of these qualities we work so hard to achieve. This is especially problematic in younger populations, as they are generally weaker and skeletally immature.

This is why we advocate an 8-10 week shut down annually. Sure, you’ll be a bit rusty in the first few weeks of starting up but don’t worry you’ll “figure it out” during the ramp-up of your throwing program.

8. Insufficient Pre-season Ramp-up – Sometimes too little of a good thing can be detrimental as well. Many older, more experienced players especially the guys that already have commitments to schools may be trying to save some bullets and start throwing a little later, and ramp up a little slower. Players go from a casual off-season progression to an excessive amount of high intensity pitches in a short amount of time. In the northeast, this is especially taxing due to the fact that the season usually begins in 40 degree weather. It is a grind.  So, make sure you ramp-up properly for the spring load.

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9. Poorly Designed Strength Training Programs – This one hits close to home as well. Most traditional baseball strength training programs either involve:

  • Excessive coddling (no heavy lifting), or
  • Going to the extremes and doing the football team’s workout

I read a great quote by Eric Cressey once where he stated ”baseball players can and should be pushed incredibly hard as long as the exercise selection is appropriate”. I agree 100%.  Including a thorough assessment is a must to ensure individualized programming as well as coaching proper movement patterns to ensure that we’re not allowing athletes to get really good at moving poorly.

(Lateral KB Lunge)

In addition, programming should reflect where the athlete is in their season and as always, avoiding things such as Olympic lifting (hard on the shoulders and wrists).  Not placing heavy weights in unstable OH shoulder positions will also go a long way in reducing wear and tear on the joints in the weight room.

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Ouch… Not the best path to throw gas…

Having said all this, injuries continue to rise despite the greater focus on injury prevention. Many times this unjustly falls into the lap of physical therapists and/or strength coaches. I don’t believe either are to blame, pitchers’ arms don’t hurt from weight lifting or physical therapy.  They more thank likely hurt from mismanagement of one or more of the topics above. So for the over-zealous helicopter dads who are looking for someone to blame for their kids arm injury they may not have to look any further than the bathroom mirror.

I have assembled below what we consider to be our Pitchers Doctrine, I hope it’s helpful.

  1. Avoid early age overuse (7 – 14)
  2. Improve overall strength
  3. Improve and maintain mobility / stability year-round
  4. Maintain an optimum weight level (lean muscle mass)
  5. Identify and correct pitching mechanics for disconnects and stress
  6. Get adequate sleep
  7. Observe a minimum 6-week shutdown period during the year
  8. Participate in a thorough pre-season ramp-up program
  9. Avoid year-round baseball
  10. Follow a proper nutrition program

See ya’ in the gym…


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