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BaseBall Update: Effects Of Repetitive Pitching On The Shoulder

Posted by Tracy A. Norris D.C., C.C.E.P. on

The importance on understanding the effects of repetitive pitching on the shoulder, especially in young pitchers is important to be able to properly manage the number of pitches thrown by a pitcher in a certain time period, but also to know how to manage an appropriate icing program for a pitchers shoulder.  

Baseball pitchers commonly experience a loss of strength and/or increased shoulder soreness after pitching.  These factors, if not approached properly, can lead to a decrease in pitching performance as well as a potential overuse injury or in advanced cases, arm surgery.  


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Icing the shoulder is an accepted and effective method for reducing shoulder edema, inflammation and for promoting quicker recovery for baseball pitchers and catchers. Icing the shoulder is an effective aid to baseball performance and is commonly used to reduce tissue temperature, metabolism, circulation of inflammatory markers and delayed muscle soreness due to faster lactate removal. 

Tremendous forces and torques are put onto the shoulder and elbow during overhand throwing activities.  These forces lead to micro-trauma in the soft tissues of the shoulder and elbow, and when combined with throwing repetition, these stresses can result in overuse injuries from the accumulation of micro-trauma events. 


How To Maximize Repetitive Throwing Performance

  • Properly monitor repeat performance
  • Utilize ice after pitching to help improve recovery time from pitching micro-trauma in the soft tissues.
  • Use of proper icing modalities to maintain tissue cooling consistently throughout the treatment time. Utilizing a true ice product has been found to be more effective than gel ice packs due to the fact that ice products maintain their cooling temperature better than a gel pack that declines in coolness throughout the treatment period.  


Understanding the proper use of ice for the shoulder and elbow for pitchers and catchers provides benefits related to proprioception, muscle temperature and performance.  Studies suggest that athletes who utilize pre-cooling and cooling between innings during exercise provide positive effects on performance and a viable solution for assisting in quicker recovery from the micro-trauma that occurs with repetitive throwing. 


Conclusion

In multiple studies involving repeated cooling lasting 4 minutes between innings and post game for 20-30 minutes assists baseball pitchers and catchers to help retain throwing velocity and provides a significant improvement in perceived recovery and subjective exertion during baseball activities. 

With the current evidence in Cryotherapy research, baseball pitchers and catchers should use ice for a practical and effective therapy against tissue micro-trauma.  This approach and its potential positive effects could improve pitching performance and may reduce overuse injuries in the long term. 


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