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.
Inventor of the Bullwhip®