February 2020 Newsletter: Why Icing Doesn’t Work For Pitchers

You’ve made it to another spring season! All your hard work will now be put to the test. Whether you play in high school, college, or travel and league ball, you’ll now show everyone whether your arm and body are ready for the rigors of the season. Playoffs are at stake, winning a championship is there for the taking, and winning a league or conference title is one those moments that will be cherished forever.

Then suddenly, like a thief in the night, you experience a loss in velocity, in the shape of your off-speed pitches or, God forbid, an injury to your body.

This is one of the realities of playing the game you love, but is there anything you can do to assist you through this time of year?

Hopefully, you’ve trained during the summer to build strength and used the fall and winter to get yourself ready for the rigors of the spring season. However, what can you do during the season to maintain your health?

Unfortunately, even in the year 2020, there are still coaches making pitchers do long-distance running. That’s a conversation for another day, but for now it’s important to know pitchers do not gain leg strength with long-distance running. My associates at Throwzone Academy have always joked that no one from Nigeria or Kenya has ever pitched in professional baseball, and those athletes can run a marathon in two hours!

But one of baseball’s biggest fallacies is icing your arm after you pitch. There are still coaches and parents who insist that their player ice after pitching, regardless of whether they pitched for one inning or an entire game. There are several reasons why icing is just flat out bad for recovery.

Before I touch on some points, you should know there are leading authorities in this field who can more eloquently give medical reasons as to why icing your arm, or any other body part, is a bad idea. One such person is a friend of mine, Gary Reinly (www.garyreinl.com). Gary is a leading voice on the subject and known in the sports world as the “Anti-Ice Man.” In the last 10 years, he’s influenced and educated more athletes regarding the dangers of icing. Major League Baseball has always been rooted in habits and trends, but as of today at least 20 organizations have moved away from icing, and even more are discovering the benefits of manual and electric stimulation to improve circulation in the area of damaged tissues. It’s fascinating reading and well worth the time to educate yourself.

Following any activity, especially after spending a game throwing a baseball, there are microscopic tears that your body has a unique way of healing and returning back to a normal state. However, when you ice you’re not allowing for your body’s natural tendency to promote healing. The coldness of the ice compresses the area of damage and keeps bad blood from moving out of the area and being eliminated through the lymphatic nodes. (Note: I am not a doctor, but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express so this gives me some mild knowledge on the topic).

Instead, you want to promote blood flow to the area of the arm where soreness may occur. At TZAcademy, we utilize Marc Pro stim devices to help get good blood in and get bad blood out. Your blood has healing agents in its system called UMC’s (undifferentiated mesenchymal cells). These cells are similar to stem cells in their function and behavior. UMC’s rush to where repair is needed and begin their work, but their delivery depends on blood flow to the affected area. Ice acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it causes blood vessels to close up and reduces the amount of blood flow to an area. Less blood flow means fewer UMC’s can get to where they’re needed.

There are additional medical factors at play here, but I wanted you to know that ice does NOT help in recovery whatsoever.

So, how can you help facilitate tissue repair? Marc Pro has an amazing product that uses electrical stimulation to contract the muscles and increase blood flow to the area in need. Also, we utilize mobility wraps, called VooDoo Floss, which is a less expensive way to promote blood flow. Wrapping the area in need and manually doing exercises speeds up the process of getting more blood to the area.

These are all items we promote here at Throwzone as well as what the high school I work at utilizes. With them, we’ve been able to decrease the number of arm problems players experience to a bare minimum compared to other high school programs who continually have arm problems. Throwing a bag of ice onto a sore arm will NOT help a thrower get back to normal. In many instances, it will continue to slow the process of healing and getting back onto the field and mound.

Again, there are greater authorities on the subject of using ice who can do a better job quoting peer-related research to prove their point. But one thing is certain: the only thing ice does is make your skin cold.

If your child pitches in a game, please stop putting ice on their arm. Contact us here at Throwzone for more suitable ways of dealing with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Scapular exercises, push-ups, and sleeper stretches after games will do so much more in promoting better recovery and helping your player get back on the mound feeling much better about their arm health.

Until next time…

Jim