Injury Prevention in the Overhead Throwing Athlete

One of the best ways to prevent injuries in the throwing athlete is to strengthen the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles; the supraspinatous, infraspinatous, teres minor, and sub scapularis. The function of the rotator cuff is to act as a force couple to depress the humeral head in the glenoid cavity during activities. The rotator cuff plays a major role in overhead activities in athletics. Athletes should perform a maintenance routine during the season as well as the off season to help prevent injuries to the rotator cuff. The athletes that are most often injured in the rotator cuff region are overhead throwing athletes and overhead hitting athletes. The severity of the injuries can differ from a minor strain to an injury requiring surgery. If an injury occurs to an athlete, he or she should consult their medical professional for advice and ask for physical therapy to help correct the problem and learn exercises to prevent the injury from returning in the future.

Maintaining the strength and integrity of the rotator cuff is vital to an athlete in staying healthy and playing at a competitive level. Rotator cuff strengthening exercises can easily be accomplished at home and only take approximately 10-15 minutes per day. Some exercises involve using a resistance band. Put the band in a door and pull the rubber band toward and away from your belly at a 90 degree angle. These exercises emphasize strengthening the internal and external rotators of the rotator cuff region. Another exercise that can easily be performed at home is taking a soup can weighing approximately two to three pounds and raising it straight up in front of you and out to the side to a 90 degree angle. These activities help strengthen the anterior and lateral deltoid regions.

One important aspect of injury prevention is making sure the individual has good mechanics when throwing or hitting a ball. Make sure that the athlete is not leading with the elbow or the shoulder when throwing and has good mechanics so he or she is not putting excessive stress on the anterior shoulder or the elbow regions. A good way to accomplish this is to videotape the athlete’s performance and watch the dynamics of the overhead activity to see if any abnormal stress is being felt in the shoulder or elbow region.

Another very important aspect for the overhead throwing athlete is knowing when to throw certain pitches and how many pitches should be thrown for that individual. Too many young individuals are throwing curve balls at an early age as well as throwing too many pitches in a week or during a baseball game. There are strict guidelines for individuals in regards to what to throw and how many pitches to throw per week based on their age. If you have questions regarding what type of pitches children should throw and when to throw contact your local health professional or ApexNetwork Physical Therapy.

When looking at preventing throwing injuries, one should consider maintaining a strong core. Overhead hitting and throwing requires a lot more force to be generated from the lower extremities as well as the abdominal region. The majority of the velocity in a baseball pitcher usually originates in the lower extremities. By focusing on strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, and the gluteal region along with a strong core cannot only help individuals throw with better velocity, but can also help prevent injuries in the shoulder region.

When a shoulder injury does occur, the athlete should rest and utilize ice and anti-inflammatories for a couple of weeks and if the problem does not correct itself should see his or her doctor. Once a doctor has looked at the athlete’s shoulder, physical therapy is often prescribed to work on pain relief and strengthening the rotator cuff region. Specific emphasis should be placed on strengthening the external rotators of the shoulder to help slow the arm down after the athlete releases the ball to prevent further damage to the shoulder. Depending on the severity of the injury, an MRI might be ordered which shows the integrity of the rotator cuff as well as soft tissue injuries that can occur in the shoulder region. If the injury is a minor strain rest, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy can sometimes get athletes back in two to four weeks. But if the injury is severe and requires surgery, athletes are usually out anywhere from six to 12 months depending on the type of injury.

Keeping the rotator cuff strong and keeping the individual flexible can help prevent rotator cuff injuries from occurring. Also keeping in mind pitch counts and not allowing athletes to throw certain pitches too early will also help protect the integrity of the athlete’s shoulder.

If you have any questions regarding what exercises to do or when an appropriate pitch should be thrown contact ApexNetwork Physical Therapy or your local medical provider.