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Strike People Out: How to Protect Your Arm (Part 3)

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 if you put Ricky Bobby in the van, if you're not first you're last. 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 rarely reach or realize their TRUE POTENTIAL. 

 

Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly Recovery 

ICYMI - Throwing under fatigue is the most common denominator in throwing injuries across the board. Throwing while fatigued, no matter the origin of fatigue, can increase injury likelihood up to 36 times that of throwing fresh. The human shoulder can move at 7500 degrees per second, this is the fastest measured moving joint in the body. Forces can be equivalent of holding five twelve pound bowling balls in your hand when you are fully laid back. When you are at ball release you are generating forces greater than your own body weight. A “weak” or underdeveloped core can increase injury 5-10 times. Taking less than 4 months off per year can increase risk 5 times. Specialization under the age of 12 increases your risk 70-90%. All of these stats are directly from the brightest minds in the industry out of the American Sports Medicine Institute founded by world renowned Dr. Andrews. You must let this powerful mechanism recover and take into account not only your daily recovery routine but your weekly, monthly, and yearly. 

 

Yearly Recovery 

As mentioned before it is recommended that a youth athlete take off 4 months of playing each year to protect overuse. You might find some literature stating 3 months but we always want to heir on the side of caution and be responsible. More often than not, less is more, although the cultural norm says the opposite. Yearly development is not only key for recovery but also for appropriate athletic development both physically and mentally. In fact more and more research is coming out that shows less arm injuries in the northern and colder states where they are forced to take time off vs the southern warmer states where they can play more games. This should really make us sit back and think. In fact, from a development standpoint we should think more long-term pay off and less short-term reward, it's an investment. Since 1947 at the LLWS in Williamsport, of the 42,000 baseball athletes that have come through that tournament only 5 pitchers have made it to the big leagues. This does not mean don’t have fun and don’t go chase your dreams, as a whole I know not everyone's goal in reading this blog is to make it to the big leagues, it just means use caution when choosing to throw and not throw. Time off can come in the form of playing other sports, resting, or finding a training system that helps the athlete develop athleticism, explore new movement, improve imbalances, build strength, and psychologically mature. It is also recommended that athletes not throw more than 100 innings a year although some doctors prefer to keep it under 80-90. Greater than 100 innings in a year can increase likelihood of injury 3 times the norm. When counting innings we must understand that innings vary in stress levels just like pitch counts. A 30 pitch inning and a 9 pitch inning are a very different thing and we should acknowledge the stress differences in the two along with the stresses of pitching in a practice game versus a championship game. 

 

Monthly Recovery 

When we look at the month we need to look at accumulation of total volume from that month. Not only games but practices. A throw is a throw and we need to treat it as such. New research is coming out that shows flat ground throws create comparable elbow torque and sometimes more stress than throwing off of a mound even if the velocities are significantly lower. If an athlete has done pitching lessons, practice, played in 1-2 games in a week then it is a very different situation then going into a weekend tournament where volume has been less. Keep track of the monthly volume and try to make sure 3-4 weeks into the month you haven’t accumulated 30 innings worth of throws when you add it all together. Again, quality is more important than quantity. Focus on accuracy and consistency utilizing the same warmup, cool down, and lifestyle approaches that you would for a game.

 

Weekly Recovery

Weekly recovery should be influenced by how the athlete feels especially when they don’t feel good. If they feel tired, sore, or they are not recovering as fast as normal you might need to extend out the recommended rest days. On the flip side, if they are feeling good, DO NOT go under the recommended rest days. Sometimes it can be hard to regulate the competitor inside of us but this is highly recommended. Again, this is thinking along the lines of long-term development versus short-term competition. USA Baseball has recommendation based off of age and pitches accumulated:

 

With this in mind we need to understand the difference between rest and regeneration. Rest does not necessarily mean do nothing. You should stay active, do exercises or movements that encourage tissue healing and reduction of inflammation without aggravating the shoulder/elbow or throwing for volume. You should also stay on top of your lifestyle habits during these times to help normalize the recovery process. 

 

Daily Recovery 

Daily recovery should consist of the strategies in part 1 including warm-up, 2-out drills, cool down. The goal is to activate the lymphatic system which helps remove unwanted inflammation and bring fresh oxygenated blood to the damaged tissues. Light movement of the damaged tissue through band work, plyocare tosses, foam rolling, and soft tissue work will all help. Implementing these 3 things each time you throw will help you prepare and repair from each session. The more prepared you are the less damage your body will accumulate thus helping the recovery p