Many athletes have had their baseball season shortened or cancelled due to COVID-19. This extra rest can be helpful in decreasing stress on the shoulder and elbow joints, but it can also lead to decreased strength and ROM. Overhead athletes need to keep their bodies strong, and a great way to achieve that is by performing a regular strengthening program. With many gyms remaining closed or limiting access during social distancing, that can be even more challenging. However, there are many exercises that can be done at home with minimal equipment needs.
A great program to focus on during the off season is the Thrower’s Ten program that was developed with the overhead athlete in mind. These exercises focus on the muscle groups that matter most for the overhead athlete. We use our entire body to throw a ball and the stress on the shoulder to decelerate the arm is about twice our body weight. Most of this stress gets placed on the rotator cuff and scapular muscles that slow the arm down as we follow through with our throw. Weakness in these muscles can lead to problems with the shoulder and elbow joints. Common injuries can be Little League shoulder and elbow or strains to the ulnar collateral ligaments (Tommy John).
If you have dealt with pain or injuries in the past, a comprehensive evaluation by a physical therapist (PT) who focuses on treating the overhead athlete can be extremely helpful in identifying areas of concern. Your PT will evaluate your strength with a dynamometer to look at any significant abnormalities between shoulders. They can also perform a video throwing analysis to look at ways to potentially reduce injury risk and improve performance. This can almost always be achieved with only a couple of visits, and the off season is a great time to start addressing areas of concern to be ready for next season or throwing during the winter. Your PT can help you develop a customized home exercise program based on your needs.
Physical Therapist Kyle Stevenson, D.P.T., sees patients at MidMichigan’s Rehabilitation Services location in Greater Midland North-End Fitness Center. He has a special interest in sports medicine, and enjoys working with athletes of all ages. He has completed specialized coursework and training for the throwing athletes. New patients are welcome with a physician referral by calling (989) 832-5913. Those who would like more information about MidMichigan’s Rehabilitation Services may visit www.midmichigan.org/rehabilitation.