For the last several decades, arm injuries have been steadily on the rise in baseball. The majority of them have occurred within the first month of the season. So, with the start of the baseball season upon us, I wanted to touch on some recovery methods that can help prevent some of these issues.
Proper Deceleration Patterns
One of the first things we teach our players in Healthy Heat are our Decel Drills. Peak Shoulder Internal Rotation can reach 7000° per second. That means if your arm was not attached to your body it would spin around in a circle almost 19 ½ times in 1 second. That is a tremendous amount of force that could lead to a lot of damage in your arm if it is not slowed down in a safe and effective manner. One tool that I like to use with my pitchers the day after they throw is to put them in an Oates Throwing Sock and have them throw a light flat ground. If the player has soreness that is caused by a poor deceleration pattern they will show some discomfort if that pattern is repeated. The Throwing Sock will take the majority of the stress off the players arm allowing them to make some low stress throws and navigate through the discomfort to find a more efficient movement pattern.
Increase Blood Flow
Growing up I was religious about icing after I threw. After the game you could find me strapped up with ice from my neck to my fingertips. We now know that icing will delay your healing process. Ice slows blood flow to the area and we want to get as much blood flow to the injured tissue as possible to remove the waste produced by the lymphatic system and repair the tissue. The way we do that is by dynamic movements as well as using Rocket Wrap after players throw. Rocket Wrap is a compression floss that temporarily restricts blood flow to the area for the 30 seconds that it is wrapped around the desired area which sends a signal to the brain that more blood flow is needed to that area. When the wrap is removed the area receives in increase in blood flow flushing out toxins and promoting healing to the area.
Strength & Mobility
Maintaining a regular strength and conditioning program during the season can be difficult but is critical to staying healthy throughout the course of a long season. Players should have a regular recovery program filled with T-Spine and shoulder mobility exercises as well as exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff, shoulder and scapular stabilizers, and maintain core stability.
Creating a routine that drills/reinforces proper decel patterns, increases blood flow after you throw, and maintains strength and mobility during the season will go a long way to keeping you healthy throughout the year. Our focus in Healthy Heat is shifting as the season starts to accommodate players increasing need for recovery to keep players healthy and throwing hard with the gains that they have put on all offseason. Below I have included links to the aforementioned Oates Throwing Sock and Rocket Wrap. They are both inexpensive and two of the best tools that I have found on the market.
Former big-leaguer Chris Colabello wrote an article on the Bob Tewksbary blog called “Bigger Moves Are More Fragile.” The title grabbed me because it articulated something that I’ve thought, if not said to an even more detrimental degree. Bigger movements are more difficult to master and control so why not be simpler? I hope I didn’t sound like the “old school” coaches Colabello refers to in his article who told him over and over again:
“That’ll never work — when you get to higher levels, guys are too good, you have to keep it simple.”
The fact of the matter, whether intended or not, I probably did sound like those guys. I probably failed to give the player (or players) room to have a conversation, explain their thoughts, or even show me what they’re feeling in their swing movements. Whether it was a leg kick, hand movement, barrel tip, or whatever the player wanted to try, I was probably too quick to disengage and think like the “old school” coaches mentioned above - “You can’t hit like that at the higher levels.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this many years of coaching, it is that you can’t control or manipulate success in the game of baseball, and you certainly can’t be fearful of potential greatness.
Thankfully, some time during the summer of 2012, I started walking down this road of great swing movements. It was here that I started to engage with a player (Jason Mishler, to give credit where credit it due) and ask him about what he was learning. We watched video on baseball road trips. We battled and went back and forth on different ideas. Ultimately, I learned. I grew. I got better. Not only did I get better, I watched players get better. I watched them play with more freedom. I watched them have more fun. I watched our team break program hitting records in spite of the move to BBCOR bat. Hmmmm, something was happening.
Fast forward six years and I’m seeing guys who I work with continue to find success, and I’m seeing guys at the next levels of the game experience great success as well. Take Keenan Eaton as an example. After a couple of stints at different schools at the Division I level, Keenan is now playing at Colorado Mesa University. Keenan is a great kid, a great listener, and willing to do what coaches asked him to do (I mean, he is the son of a coach, after all). Unfortunately for Keenan, it seems like the voices he was listening to at the Division I level were like how mine used to be - attempting to control success and potentially keeping a player from greatness. Out of the gate here in the spring of 2018, Keenan was named RMAC Player of the Week.
Colabello finished his blog post by saying, “Don’t be scared of bigger moves but remember the bigger the moves get, the more accountable a hitter has to be for them." This is the hardest part for any coach - the player is accountable for his moves, not the coach. The coach is accountable for his job, and how his teams comes together. It’s hard to release the control of the movements to the player. But it’s what we’re called to do as coaches. We’re called to serve the player and be a guide on the journey. The sooner we realize that, the sooner our players and teams will experience astronomical success.
We are very excited with the progress we are seeing in Healthy Heat and want to continue to keep you updated with has been happening and what is coming up as well as get your feedback so we can continue to build on our success. We are seeing tremendous buy in and have over 60 players currently getting after it every week, pushing each other to take their game to the next level. Arm actions are continuing to become more efficient allowing guys to throw harder and more often without pain. We have ordered a Motus sleeve that will be here soon so we can track the exact amount of stress a player is putting on their arm so we can continue to build their pain free throwing with scientific backing. We are currently seeing an average gain over 3 mph on a pitch and 4.3 mph on a double hop from players who have participated in Healthy Heat for at least 8 weeks. We have printed up Healthy Heat t-shirts that are for sale as well as awarded several already to players who have seen 10 mph gains in the program!
With the season approaching we will be transitioning our sessions to better suit players playing schedule. Beginning the week of March 5th we will be transitioning Healthy Heat to 75 minute sessions. Based on feedback that we have gotten this will better suit players in-season schedule and we will tailor sessions based on players needs whether it be drill-based, pitching-based, or recovery-based. We will get you the updated schedule for In-Season shortly.
Thank you all for being a part of Healthy Heat and we hope to keep building with you! Please let Wes or I know if you have any questions or concerns.
Director of Healthy Heat