Pitcher’s Dilemma — Preventing Injury in America’s Pastime

It’s a sport etched in the very heart of our country’s history; it brings us joy and — more often than not — can have us feeling downright dejected. And here in Baltimore, we know a thing or two about the latter…

But regardless, countless kids each year will step up to the plate for the first time in their lives with hopes of emulating their favorite players. Many will find a quick exit from the sport; but some may continue into their High School years, and others may venture past that to achieve even greater success. For those that continue, injuries will be — just like any other sport — part of the game.

When we think injuries, one position in particular brings to mind a myriad of orthopedic affliction: the pitcher.

Young pitchers are in a particularly tough spot. They’re at risk for serious injury, with no clear cut reasoning as to why.1 Many signs point to limiting the inning count to lower than 100 per season, and barring pitchers from playing catcher, as a means of reducing these injuries; and other concepts, such as pitch count, arm angle, and throwing a curveball have become topics of contention in the context.

Perhaps most famous for injuries such as the “Tommy John” (Ulnar Collateral Ligament Sprain), pitchers are also no stranger to the likes of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis, just to name a few. And although we’ve no concrete way of preventing such maladies from happening, proper movement and strength screening, such as Functional Movement Screening (FMS), or Selective Functional Movement Assessments (SFMA), can help to identify areas of problem. With such knowledge in hand, practitioners could focus their efforts on what they need most.

Cue the concept of ‘prehabbing’

Pitching is one of the most complex arts in the world of sports. Similar to the golf swing, for example; it requires timing between the arms, legs and torso, to achieve consistency in the most efficient manner. Lacking the required strength, endurance and mobility in the muscles utilized to execute these movements, plays a role in the breakdown of mechanics as the inning/pitch count rises. Distance running, the long toss, and dynamic exercises that target both the upper and lower body musculature, should be emphasized.

Below, we’ve prepared some awesome exercises and recovery techniques that may help you through the season!

Strengthening

The Prone “Y” & Squats

Recovery

The Posterior Capsule Stretch & Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage

References

1. Risk of serious injury for young baseball pitchers: a 10-year prospective study.

Obligatory — The Bench Press

“Hey bro, how much do you bench?”

Perhaps the most famous verbiage in a gym rat’s arsenal.

And perhaps for good reason — because what would the world of powerlifting be without the bench? It’s the quintessential exercise; it’s the one everyone and their grandmother knows in the context of lifting.

While not being as flashy as the snatch or clean and jerk, it’s still a complex movement with a lot of variables to consider when performing. Your chest, arms and shoulders are all an active component — and focusing attention onto these areas independently can give you that true strength to help you reach your potential with this exercise.

These are are a few exercises that we really like as supplemental work or as substitutes when dealing with pain.

The Floor Press

The Floor Press is the absolute bomb, especially if you’re having shoulder pain or are limited by your shoulder in general when performing the bench. It’s great because it requires you to push through a smaller range of motion to perform. If you’re rehabbing your shoulder, for example, this would be a great replacement for the bench.

The Dumbbell Chest Fly

Awesome supplemental exercise to train your pecs for hypertrophy — with dumbbell in each hand, the chest fly allows you to train each arm independently. Time under tension is important to keep in mind when performing this exercise.

The Close Grip Press

The close grip press can be a great supplemental exercise to train your pecs for hypertrophy, also. Think about pressing the dumbbells together throughout the movement. Time under tension is, again, important to keep in mind when performing this exercise.

Lift Heavy – The Deadlift

The year is 2016 — the stage is set at the Giants Live World Deadlift Championships. Eddie Hall is poised to make history — becoming the first man to deadlift 500kg.

The strain of the lift so great, Eddie would pass out almost immediately after.

While this is on the extreme side of weight lifting — the deadlift at its core is the same at all skill levels. If we were to break it down further, we can isolate the mechanism to the hip hinge.

The hip hinge is the fundamental pattern when lifting anything heavy off the ground. And the range can apply to all weight levels; from lifting a heavy box from the ground to Eddie Hall deadlifting 500kg — the hip hinge is the most efficient and safe way to lift.

Below our some of our favorites for showcasing the hip hinge.

The Hip Hinge

  • Kettlebell Deadlift
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Single-Leg Deadlift

Overhead Press — The Strongman, The Shoulder and The Oak

 

The Austrian Oak, introduced in 2012 at the Arnold Strongman Classic, is among one of the most interesting lifting events in the modern era. The oak — beautifully crafted entirely of wood — varies in weight yearly, but can typically reach excess of 460+ lbs.

Competitors are not only tasked with lifting this monstrosity from the ground, but they must attempt to press it overhead. Any competitor unable to press the oak is given a “lighter” variant weighing in at around 375 lbs.

In 2015, Žydrūnas Savickas sought to defy all logic by pressing the oak — which was particularly heavy that year, weighing in at 503 lbs — not once, but a total of four times. Žydrūnas would solidify himself as the world record holder for the event, and the only person that year to rep the giant log even once.

The overhead press is an incredibly complex movement, and while Žydrūnas Savickas makes it look easy, it’s important to take into account all of the muscles that are connected to the shoulder.

Although you don’t need to press the Austrian Oak, the following exercises we’re about to show you can impact your ability to lift objects overhead, whether that’s on the scale of putting dishes in the cabinet, or snatching, clean and jerk and the overhead press.

Shoulder Strength

Developing the many muscles of the rotator cuff is integral to developing true shoulder strength. This set of exercises is meant to challenge the rotator cuff and its surrounding muscles. The following exercises are as follows:

  • Sidelying External Rotation
  • Sidelying Shoulder Flexion
  • Sidelying Horizontal Abduction

Shoulder Mobility

Not only is it important to build strength in the shoulder, but it’s just as important to build mobility in the shoulder so you can use that strength. These exercises put a focus on improving that shoulder mobility. The following exercises are as follows:

  • Overhead Loaded Cane/PVC Pipe Flexion
  • Supine Thoracic Extension (Remember: the thoracic spine is tied to shoulder girdle mobility!)
  • Overhead Banded Shoulder Distraction

Go Low – Improving Your Deep Squat

In September 1964, Bob Hoffman and his York Barbell Company laid their claim to the then nascent landscape of powerlifting by hosting the first national — albeit unofficial — lifting meet. The event would serve as progenitor to the Golden Age of American powerlifting and its three pillars: Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift.

Over the years, the sport would adapt its own standard for these lifts. Most notably, the criteria for an acceptable squat would be determined by the depth to which one could squat down. And while squatting through a full range is important to achieve an ideal stimulus for strength, it’s important to take into account the mobility and flexibility component associated with this complex movement.

Our range of motion keeps us honest; it’s key when considering the amount of stimulus a person can apply to their body.

You may have heard of putting plates under your heels to “squat deeper”; however, this is just a temporary solution to a bigger problem: ankle mobility. A common problem for lifters, those without proper dorsiflexion will find it difficult to keep their torso upright when performing a squat. Being the case, improving one’s ankle range of motion is imperative when trying to go low. Below we’ve collected some of our favorite stretches to improve ankle mobility. Next time you’re at the gym, make sure to include these in your routine!

1. Squat Weight Shifting

2. Loaded Dorsiflexion & Loaded Plantarflexion Stretch

3. Dorsiflexion Mobilization with Monster Band

The Risk of Snow Shoveling and Heart Attack, & What You Can do to Help Prevent It

Snow shoveling can be a strenuous task for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, and if certain precautions are not taken a heart attack may be in their future.

For many in the US, exercise is not a constant in their lives. Because of this, it can be especially worrisome when the person is expected to do very strenuous activity all of a sudden. Instances such as these occur during a heavy snowfall and the person has to shovel or push a snowblower. This sudden strenuous activity can sometimes lead to injury, and in even some cases a heart attack. Those who are at risk for heart attack when snow shoveling are as follows: those with a history of a prior heart attack, those with a known heart disease, those with a history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol, smokers and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

So what can you do to prevent heart attacks if you fall in that category? Here are a few things that you can do before you shovel to ensure you don't increase your risk of heart attack:

  • Talk to your doctor about shoveling before winter sets in.
  • Don't eat a heavy meal, drink coffee, or smoke before shoveling the snow. Blood is diverted to the stomach when eating, while coffee and smoking elevates blood pressure an increases heart rate.
  • Give yourself some time after waking up before shoveling, and be sure to warm up by marching in place an doing some stretches.
  • Use a small shovel, drink lots of water and take frequent 15-minute breaks.
  • Dress in layers while being sure to cover your head, neck, and mouth.
  • Watch for signs of heart attack (lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and tightness or burning in the chest and neck/arms).