Welcome to another new year. Another turning of the calendar page to help get us moving in the right direction toward all of our events, our hopes, and our children’s plethora of practices, recitals, games, tournaments, and the list goes on.
Baseball season is literally right around the corner. Our local PONY baseball complex starts tryouts this coming weekend to put teams together. Travel and select teams will begin games as early as MLK Day weekend with another busy weekend of hurrying up to get to field sites—and then slowing down as the tournament director lets all the head coaches know they’re already 45 minutes behind schedule.
High schools are in full force, playing their winter games and getting ready for February 12th when California’s Southern Section begins a busy 3-month period of games before playoffs for a potential month-long postseason this year. High school baseball is set for a state championship this year, so get your bleacher seats with the high school logo, have your sunscreen and visors handy, and fill the cooler to the top with ice and your favorite beverage to watch your son battle on the mound.
This time of year is typically the most dangerous time for injuries. Many players have taken time off during the two-week holiday break, in addition to time spent the prior two weeks studying for final exams. While coaches will tell players to take a couple of weeks off, don’t take too much time since games start up very quickly once break is over. In fact, I heard a story today of a high school team who got back together for their first practice and the coach—who had advised his players to take time off during the holidays—immediately set up an intersquad where all the pitchers pitched! Those poor guys had to throw in a game without any lead up to this scrimmage. If I knew I’d have to pitch on day one of practice, then I would’ve never stopped throwing!!
This is just one story of one high school program who has it all backwards. Imagine the number of baseball players impacted here in SoCal when at least 75% of coaches do this with either their high school, travel, or select ball teams.
And it’s why this is a dangerous time for injuries with baseball players. They’re cramming too much into a short period of time.
It used to be that pro players didn’t get ready for spring training until after the holidays. But those games started much earlier in March than previous generations. Then December 1st became the magic date. Now, pro pitchers only give themselves maybe 2–3 weeks of no baseball activity before they slowly start to build up their strengths, correct those body parts that need to be balanced again, and begin a throwing routine.
Even within this time schedule, the most prominent time for pitchers to break down—with ulnar collateral ligament damage (Tommy John surgery), shoulder weakness (labrum tear) or rotary cuff problems (needing surgical replacement)—is during the months of March and April, and all during spring training games. Why is this?
Soft tissue issues primarily arise when you begin to put stress on those areas while ramping up your arm for throwing. Did you give yourself enough time to get ready? Fifty percent of pitchers don’t do this. Did you do too much? The remaining fifty percent fall into this category. There is a fine line between health and injury, and these are players that get paid to figure this stuff out with their agent, trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and so forth. However, all humans are born with the same body parts: connective tissue, muscles, and everything else going on inside the skin of a person. At Throwzone, our youth players are who we’re interested in helping, but again, we’re dealing with the same parts.
Now, with our youth players, they don’t set up throwing schedules like the pro guys do. Young players play catch 2–4 times over the holidays, usually with a family member in the backyard and with only 50 feet of usable area to throw in and not break something. Suddenly, these players are put into game scenarios with 4–5 games over a January weekend. Keep adding to this stress throughout the next month or two, and there is pain.
There is little to no arm band work, no real stretching, too many pitches in an inning and, subsequently, over a weekend. Amazingly, there are still tournaments that have no pitching throw requirements or that allow ten innings per weekend. Even players as young as 8-years-old are subjected to this. And for what? A piece of metal or a $4 ring claiming your team is the champion?
It’s really sad, and though amateur baseball organizations such as USA Baseball work with a system called Pitch Smart to help with young arms, the threat of serious injury is there on every throw or pitch that young arm does. Younger players need to be educated about knowing their body, their arms, and their needs to get everything working together. Those who educate themselves will move in the right direction, like putting on a shield of armor to go to battle!
The good news is there are places who know how to train pitchers and throwers properly about arm care, correct throwing mechanics, and can offer advice on combating all that is scary out there. Throwzone Academy (www.throwzone.com) is one of those places. With over twenty years of experience, we place a premium on your child’s throwing arm and show him the right way to put himself in the best position to succeed and to stay healthy.
We have openings available now and would love to have your son work with us as soon as possible.
Your player does not have to get injured in baseball. But it takes some work and time to learn new skills and develop a new throwing pattern that will lessen the stress an overhand activity like pitching puts on a body.
Call us at 661-644-8814 to answer your questions. You won’t be disappointed in what you and your son will learn from our experts.
Until next time,