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Ice Is Helpful For Reducing Acute Shoulder Inflammation in Pitchers and Catchers

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

Do Pitchers Need Ice Or Not?

Ice Is Helpful For Reducing Acute Shoulder Inflammation in Pitchers and Catchers

Ice is helpful to Pitchers to assist in the reduction of minor, acute inflammation and reduces the likelihood that resulting in a more severe, chronic inflammation which has much more serious consequences.

The use of ice on the musculature of the shoulder and elbow after strenuous exercise has been in the past, and certainly more recently, a hot topic of discussion. Especially when it comes to our young athletes. Some, emphatically believe that using ice on a young athlete after strenuous exercise will cause damage to the athletes tissue and ability to perform, while other believe that cold therapy is the miracle cure to allow a child to Pitch as many innings as possible during an extended season. This article is for the purpose of evaluating facts on both sides of the discussion and presenting what facts are pertinent.

There are a lot of information against icing Pitchers arms on the web. But when you carefully read the information presented from a neutral position, there are no facts or research behind what is being stated 'as fact' by the Author. Be careful about what you read, and look for references of articles, text books and medical research that back up what is being stated.

  • The fact is that pitching causes tremendous amounts of torque and physical forces on the shoulder muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Microscopic tears occur in the skeletal muscle occur from this trauma. Although the trauma is minor and most of the time isn't even noticed beyond minor soreness or stiffness the next day.
  • The trauma that occurs causes small amounts of acute local inflammation which is marked by the release of several chemical mediators by platelets, mast cells and basophils2at the site of the micro tear.
  • In addition to this local response, additional chemical mediators that are utilized during the inflammatory process to control the damage and to remove the irritants in preparation for repair are released into the bloodstream. The healing process continues and includes the proliferation of endothelial cells and fibroblasts.
  • Ultimately the repair process and healing of the vascular supply and connective tissue matrix would complete to resolution,if not interrupted by another inflammatory source2... such as pitching. This is why ice and rest for pitchers and catchers is so important.

Damage to young pitchers tends to come when the normal repair process is interrupted and continually aggravated. When the acute trauma fails to heal, it turns into Chronic Inflammation2.

Note that the primary cause of chronic inflammation to pitchers is persistence of the inflammatory stimulus and repeated overuse of the shoulder under tremendous torque. If Chronic inflammation occurs it is necessary to removal of the repetitive trauma from continuing to occur and allow the Pitchers arm to rest and seek medical advice. Successful management of the case may result in a variable degree of reversal of the damage process and restoration of normal function2.

"Cryotherapy can be used to reduce effusion, pain, spasm, and spasticity. The effects are local anesthesia and vasoconstriction. Ice packs can be applied for 7 to 15 minutes to cool the injured area before exercising. Quick application of ice over the muscle belly can also be used to stimulate nerve fibers and to facilitate muscle contraction"2.

"Overall... Cold Therapy Evidences Positive Effects On Performance and as a Viable Therapy For Rehabilitation"

The proper icing technique for Pitchers and Catchers is to use ice prophylactically. In other words, use ice before symptoms of pain, stiffness and soreness occur to keep acute local inflammation from turning into chronic inflammation and developing more severe symptoms and lasting damage. "Overall cold therapy evidences positive effects on performance and as a viable therapy for rehabilitation. Pre-cooling combined with exercise performance as well as during exercise combined appears to be most effective. Intermittent cooling of the shoulder and forearm provided a significant improvement in perceived recovery, exertion and pitching velocity during baseball pitching. Local tissue cooling, known as Cryotherapy, is accepted as an effective method for reducing edema, inflammation, and promoting recovery".3

Application of ice can substantially decrease the extent of the damage done during sports trauma's. During our research, no data was found to contraindicate Cryotherapy for use after repetitive Pitching to control minute tissue damage from turning into chronic inflammatory sequences.

Ice Packs For Pitchers

Other Important FAQs

  1. Therapeutic exercise, active and passive, stretching and strengthening should be used to increase range of motion, increase strength, decrease pain and decrease adhesions in undesirable locations. Therapeutic exercise types to discover are Isometric (exercise without motion), Isotonic (exercise with motion) and Isokinetic (exercise with motion and resistance).
  2. Coaches should follow guidelines for pitching counts and innings pitched per year to help protect our young athletes.This is a hot topic for conversation, because some Coaches are in the position to over utilize their pitchers to ensure a Win, sometimes without consideration to the proper protocols or the long-term health of the athlete.
  3. Parents should ultimately be in charge of their children's health by being knowledgeable about proper pitching guidelines (pitch counts, innings per year, etc) and also be responsible to make sure the young athlete has proper Pitching technique training.This is also a very tricky topic, because many times parents don't want to question or upset the coach by speaking up about their child approaching their pitching limitations. And, well, let's face it. Some parents are the ones pushing the athlete to pitch harder, faster, longer and for more innings. Perhaps choosing to do an extra travel league should be considered more carefully.
Keep Our Athletes Healthy
Keep Our Athletes Healthy

In Conclusion, it really all comes down to common sense. Baseball is fun, and injuries can be kept to a minimum if you follow proper pitching guidelines, ice the shoulder appropriately after a hard workout or pitching session, do appropriate warm ups and post-game stretches and exercise to keep the shoulder muscles well balanced.

Please tell us your views on the subject of Ice For Pitchers, or any other related topics to this post.

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Copyright 2015 Vital, Inc. All Rights Reserved for Vital Inc. Information in this article, although based on research in medical journals and books, should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any disease and is not medical advice. Always check with your medical physician for your health needs.

  1. Textbook of Medical Physiology, Guyton, Sixth Edition
  2. Hammer, Warren, I. Functional Soft Tissue Examination and Treatment by Manual Methods: The Extremities ISBN: 0-8342-0185-2.
  3. Effect of Intermittent Cooling On Baseball Pitching and Catching, Stacy H. Bishop
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