I’ve recently heard from a number of baseball dads around the country concerned about elbow and forearm soreness their sons have been having while pitching. They all basically want to know same things:
Just based on this sample of emails, I’m pretty sure there are a lot more young pitchers and concerned parents out there who aren’t sure where to turn for advice. So I thought it could help to address these concerns here with today’s post.
First, we need to ask what causes most arm injuries in young pitchers?
Dr. James Andrews knows more about the alarming increase in the youth pitching injuries than just about anyone else. Here’s an interview he did the other day on the MLB Network.
According to Dr. Andrews, the top reasons for youth pitching injuries are:
1. Year-round baseball: According to one study, young pitchers who play baseball 8 months a year or more are 500% more likely to get injured. I don’t believe you have to go so far as to never pick up a ball for 4 months out of the year, but if you’re actually pitching more than 8 months a year… well, it’s not rocket science, people. Every pitcher should take some time off from pitching at the end of the season to give their arm a chance to recover.
2. Young kids training like professionals: Just about every pitcher I ever played with, in college and the pros, played more than one sport growing up. Is pitching year round really helping kids, or just increasing the risk of injury, burnout and limiting their overall athletic development? Just food for thought…
3. Attending too many showcases when the arm is not in shape: This is a huge problem in today’s youth baseball scene. Overuse during the season is one thing, but an even bigger factor is loading the joints with the stresses of max-effort pitching when guys are out of season. At least in season they’ve been throwing consistently and their arm and body should be in good pitching shape.
4. Trying to light up the radar gun: Now personally, I’m not against using a radar gun, but you have to be smart about it. As a training tool, it can be great for giving you instant feedback, making sure you’re training at a good intensity level, etc. But if your whole goal is to light it up and see how hard you can throw from day one, you’re asking for trouble. Pitching at max effort is incredibly stressful on the joints. You absolutely must be conditioned and in shape to handle this load before you break out the gun and go all out.
So to answer the question, why does my son have forearm soreness, here is my response. It’s impossible to know without seeing him in person and knowing his full history and background. But one thing I can just about guarantee…
It’s not just one thing! It’s more than likely a number of factors including:
- Mechanics (use Video Motion Analysis – if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing)
- Too much too soon
- Lack of proper warm-up
- Lack of proper conditioning (being under-prepared to handle the stresses of pitching
Whatever the root cause, it’s important to be aware of the difference between soreness and injury. If a pitcher is grimacing every time he makes a pitch, take the ball away and get him in to see a good sports doctor immediately. If it’s just soreness and the discomfort is temporary, rest and a good strength program can do the trick – but it may still make senses to consult with a Dr. or Physical Therapist. Soreness can be a warning sign, your body telling you something isn’t right.
And as far as exercises, there’s a complex of forearm exercises I usually recommend. These are all exercises I did myself and that tons of top-level pitchers do as part of their rehab or pre-hab. They’re all easy to do and can be done anywhere using a band, dumbbell, hammer, or baseball bat.
Exercises geared towards grip strength can also go a long way towards protecting and building joint integrity in the elbow. A solid routine that takes into account mobility as well as shoulder and scapular stability should also be part of your regular arm care work.
Lastly, for your arm care to be effective, you have to be CONSISTENT with it. For a powerful (but Super-Simple) Arm Care program you can do anywhere without a lot of fancy equipment, click here (it’s Free!):
Bottom line: Dealing with soreness is an unfortunate part of pitching, but pitching in pain is completely different. Be aware of the signs and the top causes of arm injuries. Use video, get assessed, train smart, and prepare your body to pitch before you let it loose on the mound!
Looking to keep your arm Healthy this season? Having a good arm care program (and STICKING with it) is a must.