What Are the Real Causes of Arm Injuries and How Can You Prevent Them?

Arm injuries happen in a lot of ways. Some are due to bad mechanics, others to a lack of strength or endurance, and still others to too many competitive pitches with too little rest between them. Often it’s a combination of all of these and more.

The reason it’s so easy to injure your arm in baseball is because throwing overhand is an unnatural motion to the human body. Without the proper practice and care, this movement can cause some significant damage.

While pitch counts can be used to monitor this, the numbers can be misleading. A young man could pitch 90-110 pitches in a game and come away feeling great the next day, while a different pitcher could pitch 50 pitches in three innings and feel really sore the next day.

There are a variety of reasons why this could be. One of the most common has to do with the conditioning and throwing one has done previously. The more a person throws, the more arm strength and endurance is built up. The tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints are all conditioned.

Game or competitive pitches also tend to be much more rigorous than practice pitches. Stressful innings tend to be more taxing on the arm. One inning of 30+ pitches versus an average inning of 15-18 pitches can be more detrimental.

There are ways to train for this kind of stress, however. Many kids make the mistake of only using their arm to throw a baseball — the rest of the body stays out of it. But in fact, a pitcher’s arm should be “along for the ride” in the throwing process — the body plays an integral part in a quality pitch.

Implement a throwing program in which players throw every day in a controlled environment. Have them throw an inning on flat ground on a daily basis. This helps pitchers attain repeatable mechanics, coordinating their body to be used the most effective way, maximizing output and minimizing stress.

Most kids only do pitching work on the day they pitch or at most once a week in unstructured play, because pitching isn’t all they do. This makes it difficult to create healthy patterns in pitching, making injuries far more likely.

On the flip-side, there’s a danger to over-pitching as well — players who live in warmer areas where they can play all year round are especially susceptible to this. While daily practice is important, that doesn’t mean it should be happening every week in the year. It’s often advisable to take a break in the late summer/early fall to let everyone rest.

This also means limiting the number of showcases kids participate in, as proper conditioning isn’t exactly a focus in these events. The responsibility falls on the athlete to prepare and to be aware of their bodies’ limits.

Avoiding injury means striking the proper balance between regular training and regular resting. It can be a double-edged sword, and regular throwing always brings with it a risk of injury, even with proper conditioning. That’s part of the reason we created the Bullwhip — it’s designed to be a low-impact solution for training, reducing the risk of injury while helping players find repeatable mechanics that work for them.

Whatever solution you choose, just remember to take care of yourself both on and off the pitch.

-Mike Voelkel,
Inventor of the Bullwhip®

2 Responses so far.

  1. Mark says:

    How often and how long should one use the bullwhip? ( 4x week @15 minutes per day?) At what intensity? (70%? 90%? )

    Thanks for your feedback. Love the product!!!!!

  2. minor says:

    Hello Mark:
    The unique aspect of the bullwhip is it can be used as a warm up(before you actually throw a baseball) or as a recovery(after you are done throwing (as a manuel resistance method) It can also be used to get throwing/pitching reps completed. We use it everyday for the above reasons(we change everyday to prevent boredom and for the player to find his strengths and weaknesses in his movement patterns of both body and arm) example: Monday: warm up: terrible towels/cowboys/step back w-throw/dak dance/figure 4’s each one for 30 seconds. Shoulder should be very warm. We then will do throw drills with plyos and softballs. Then we play catch. We shart off on our knees and move back 20 after each set is complete. Pitchers start of with their change ups(we have our captains/alpha’s count 10 reps. When they are done, the entire team moves back.”Some will get more throws in, some wont get 10) We go to 120′. Then each position has game throws(each day is different for each position”inf-out-catchers). They move in 20 after they are done and start a new set of game throws. this pattern continues until we complete 60′ game throws. Then the pitchers throw an inning(18 pitches;Fastball’4/2 seam, breaking ball/change -up,wind up/stretch)
    Then they go hit(fundamentals)Hitting group goes through throwing.
    at the end of practice-we do recovery(entire team) today, we may do 2lb weight RTC routine>
    Tuesday_we change warm up drills with bullwhips and change recovery(example:with plyos-catches:front/side/bent over. Up throws and dribbling. Each exercise is 75 reps.
    On wednesday: we may throw 7 innings, 18 pitches per inning. We will use a towel for 4 innings(underload for arm speed and body organization) and finish with 3 innings of bullwhips: attacking 5 locations.
    The above is just an example. You can use the device everyday if the player chooses. They should listen to their own arm. Variety is very very good. We try to long toss 2 times a week, with bullpens/innings with bullwhips/towels.

    any other questions. please don’t hesitate to ask.


    Mike Voelkel

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