Off-Season training for baseball has become a much bigger endeavor than it used to be. I have always contended that athletes are a special population and need to be trained as such. Baseball players and specifically pitchers are even more of a special pop and need quality, well thought out training that is based on individualized assessments. More so, the coach or trainer needs to be aware of everything that the player, in this case the pitcher is doing throughout the entire year.
Many baseball players are playing only baseball and some pitchers are throwing year-round. While this can be a debated among coaches, trainers, parents, docs, PTs and a host of other experts, to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, the reality is many guys are playing year-round so it is better to embrace it and help make sure it is done correctly and these guys are strong, safe and prepared for the entire year!
Year-round baseball, Travel baseball, clinics, showcases, extra training, etc… can and will take a physical and mental toll on pitchers. I have dealt with it many times, both as an athletic trainer taking care of arms and injuries, and as a baseball strength coach who deals with performance training and strength training for baseball players. The player, the parents, and the coaches that deal with the pitcher need to have a good understanding of the importance of recovery and some of the methods that can and should be used throughout the year to protect these valuable arms. Whether the pitcher is 11 or 20 years old, recovery is essential and I find it has been ignored by almost everyone involved development of these special athletes.
Active Recovery…more than just “rest.”
Many throw around the term “rest” loosely without understanding what real rest really means. On top of that, most times just “resting” is not enough. Active methods of recovery need to be put in place with these pitchers throughout the year. The old way of dealing with ‘arms’ was to throw an ice bag on after a throwing bout, or game and “resting” that arm until the next time the player had to pitch. While rest and icing have their place, these methods alone are not nearly enough to really make a big impact with these guys…especially the guys who are throwing and training year-round.
Soft-Tissue work, mobility and stretching
Helping the shoulder complex to feel good again, and feel like “new” as many players have said after a recovery session, is one of the goals. Working on the soft-tissue quality that is in and surrounds the shoulder joint is one of the best ways to help with this goal. Finding a professional that understands and has experience in performing soft-tissue work on athletes, specifically pitchers, is sometimes tough. While there are plenty of pros out there that can do such work and do so on a regular basis, finding them is hard to do, especially throughout the year and on a very tight schedule. Travel baseball players don’t really have that luxury when they are on the road all Summer and weekends in the Fall and Winter. Learning how to do some of it on your own, as a player is very valuable.
I have found that combining regular soft-tissue work with daily mobility drills and stretching of the upper and lower body works much better at restoring normal function, eliminating soreness and pain and getting back that “new” feeling. Even more important is that these recovery methods really help with the physical health of the shoulder complex and allow healing to take place, eliminate poor movement patterns (even at the smallest level) and restores normal function.