Arm care for all pitchers and position players is critical throughout the baseball and softball season to greatly minimize arm injuries, reduce recovery period time (swelling/tightness), and allow conditioning between games. Most players believe only pitchers need to worry about arm care and arm soreness. This is far from the truth. All players who throw a ball are prone to arm injury.
Arm care strength and conditioning not only helps prevent injuries, it also helps players increase their accuracy and velocity. It’s a win-win training regime that all players should learn, embrace and make a part of their routine training program. There are several training methods and products for maintaining arm care, which are discussed further below.
To help prevent arm soreness and over throwing a pitcher, most baseball organizations have some form of pitching restrictions during their tournaments. It can be quite frustrating for the player, coach and the entire team when a pitcher is hot on the mound and has to get pulled. I have personally found USA Baseball’s pitching rules using the Pitch Smart Guidelines to be the most restrictive.
“Keeping pitchers healthy should be a common goal of everyone in baseball. Pitch Smart is a great example of the entire baseball community, professional and amateur, coming together to make our game better.” Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Major League Baseball
Some coaches may seem obsessed with arm care and pitch counts. Much to the disgruntled pitcher, coaches limit pitchers on pitch counts and will remove a player at the slightest wince of pain. Pain in the elbow and fingers are the most common complaints of injury that I hear from players. These are huge warning signs! Shoulder tightness is another common complaint and a big warning sign as well. When a player experiences pain in these areas, my recommendation is Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate aka the R.I.C.E. Method. If the pain continues, the player should stop throwing immediately and seek a professional opinion.
Why all the fuss?
Beginning around the age of 13-14 years old, puberty starts and players start to grow. Active fusion in the elbow typically doesn’t begin until 17-21 years old. Thus, the most critical time for arm care for a player is between the age of 13-21 years old. It is during this time when random pain often occurs. Pain can be the result of “growing pains” but neither the player nor the coach should ever assume that is the reason.
Baseball careers can end immediately with an arm injury. Injuries do not only occur on the mound. My own baseball career ended with a fluke sliding dive to the bag with a jumping baseman landing on my shoulder and dislocating it. I went from throwing mid-upper 80s to a lower 80s pitcher. I was not able to fully recover from my injury and my professional baseball dreams were basically over but my coaching career began.
Starting a healthy arm routine early on and making it a habit will help set a solid foundation of arm care for years to come. This will be greatly beneficial for players as they continue on to play high school, college and possibly professional baseball. It may not prevent all arm injuries, but it will certainly help keep the arm conditioned to avoid unnecessary arm pain.
I was recently working with a 14u training group and UNLV’s senior pitcher Kenny Oakley (RHP who pitches an average of 88-92 mph) stopped by and offered some insight to the players on the importance of arm care. Kenny announced he was first introduced to Jaeger Bands when he was 13 years old and has used them ever since. He mentioned to the young players he has normal arm fatigue but he does not experience much arm soreness and directly credits his use of the Jaeger Band routine.
What products and arm routines are best?
Throwing a ball starts from your feet up, beginning from the root of your feet through to your hands. It’s a chain reaction from feet to legs to core to back to shoulder/arm to hand, all working together to provide full arm momentum. Strengthening the arm with weights and bands helps with over all power, coordination and velocity. Pilates, yoga, stretching and band movements helps with flexibility and the process of throwing. Lower body movements with modality exercises, stretching and plyometrics helps with flexibility and control of body movement. Including arm care strength and conditioning in your workout training routine will help with the overall throwing process, with the bonus of keeping arm soreness at bay.
There are several types of products, rotator cuff and band programs for arm care strength and conditioning. Some of my most preferred products include the Tennis Ball Can (TBC), Jaeger Bands, Crossover Symmetry Cords, and the Platform VRT (Braden Box).
I was first taught the Tennis Ball Can routine by my college pitching coach Warren Dickey (Detroit Tigers), which I continue to use to this day. I have also incorporated use of the Platform VRT and Jaeger Bands into my own training programs. Crossover Symmetry Cords are also becoming popular with many of my players.
Both Jaeger Bands and Crossover Symmetry offer solid arm care training material with the purchase of their products. A quick internet search will present a bunch of materials on arm care and rotator cuff training routines, although I caution anyone who bases their arm care training solely on internet material. Some of the best arm care routines cannot be found online and should only be administered by trained coaches and arm care professionals. In addition, some arm care routines can actually cause injury if not performed properly.
Some of the most notable doctors with reputable arm care training routines include Keith Kleven's shoulder and elbow program, and Dr. Frank Jobe (R.I.P.) and his protégé Dr. James Andrews, two of the best elbow surgeons. Dr. Robert Braden, DC and Timothy Soder, PT are two of the most popular, local therapists who handle arm care injuries in Las Vegas. Dr. Braden has also developed an advanced band program called the Platform Variable Resistance Training (VRT) he utilizes that helps players at all levels with arm rehabilitation, development, and maintenance. Tom House (former MLB Pitcher and Coach) also has a lot of good training material available for purchase. Players with personal or team pitching coaches can also ask their coach for an arm care program.
My Coach.Vegas training sessions usually incorporate some form of arm care training, strength and conditioning. I offer a free ½ hour training session with the purchase of Jaeger Bands from Coach.Vegas ($35), and group and private arm care programs are offered regularly through Coach.Vegas and upon request. Upcoming training sessions are posted at www.Coach.Vegas.