Some people may be surprised to hear that it is not the end of the season when arm pain in throwers is most common, but at the beginning of the season. There are a few reasons for this with the most common being a lack of a chronic workload built into the arm and body combined with an increase in acute workload. This means that the player has not done enough throwing, spread and built up over time, before the season begins and then heads into the season at mercy of the demands of the season. It is similar to asking someone to not squat heavy for months and then immediately require them to go for a one rep max on the squat. Injuries will surely follow. Instead, players must build up their arms and bodies slowly over time during the fall and winter so that they are ready on day 1 of tryouts/season to go full steam ahead. Here are 5 tips on how players can prepare themselves for the rigors of the season:
1. Throw consistently
This is not the same as pitching on a mound consistently. This means going out with your team or a partner and throwing a few days per week during your off-season. Most high school and college teams will require practicing 6 days/week, so as you get into the last month of your off-season you should be throwing up to 5 days per week.
2. Pitchers need to understand how much they throw in a calendar year
The needs of pitchers are dependent upon their workload during their seasons. A good number to use is 100 innings. Usually top high school pitchers end up throwing 60-70 innings during the season. Using 100 innings as a maximum, that would give them 30-40 innings left between the end of the season and the start of next season. Obviously that would mean not pitching much during the summer and fall seasons. For other players who pitch less during the spring season, it would be a good idea to get on the mound more and practice pitching in games and get your arm in shape.
3. Lift heavy and fast
Soft tissue injuries skyrocket during high school and college as players’ bodies begin to build muscle and get “stiffer.” However, if we are not stressing those tissues with weights and different ranges of motion we will be put at higher risk when we demand the body to create lots of force on the field. Building up tissue density with heavy lifts, and activating the stretch-shortening cycle through fast lifts.
Sprint in a variety of different ways. Uphill, knee down, sprinter’s stance, lateral stop and start, etc. Once the season gets going the requirements on the lower half of the body also increase tremendously. Without training the body with a variety of sprinting, the body will be in for quite a shock with potential muscle tears and recovery issues.
Sleep is a natural performance enhancer for the body. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep (at least 8 for adolescents) will not only allow for the body to recover more efficiently, but will also allow for greater performance on the field in practice and games because of a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone). The easiest and fastest way for players to get hurt and experience a decrease in their performance is to cause sleep deprivation. Get plenty of sleep during the season to counter the increase in practice time.
Good luck this season and stay healthy!