Saftey Council View on Throwing June 10 2015, 1 Comment

At the high school level, a great thrower can be the difference between winning and losing.

Throwers can be categorized as pitchers in softball or baseball, quarterbacks in football, field event athletes in track and field, or anyone in a serving sport such as tennis or volleyball. All of these athletes go through the throwing motion of wind-up, cocking, acceleration, deceleration, and follow through. Significant stress is placed on the shoulder and elbow during these phases. We must do everything within our power to reduce the likelihood of injury to these important members of our teams.

As coaches, parents and sports medicine profession¬als, we have a tendency to overlook how many times an athlete actually goes through the throwing motion during practices and games. Therefore, many overuse injuries occur that should and could be prevented by implementing a few simple rules into the conditioning program of the throwing athlete.

A well-planned program is essential to ensure that the risk of injury is decreased and performance is enhanced. There are ten components of this plan:

1.    Warm-up: The warm-up program for the throwing arm should last for at least 15 minutes and include activities, which raise the core temperature of the body and a good flexibility program.

2.    Gradual Progression: An increase in the activity level should be gradual. The body may require 6-8 weeks to fully reach optimal fitness. Starting a pro¬gram that is advanced may only cause injures. In¬creases should be made as the body accommo¬dates to the demands that are placed upon it. Throwing too much too early can result in trouble later.

3.    Timing: Over training is one of the most common ways that injuries occur. When an athlete gets tired or run down, that athlete becomes much more prone to injury. Most of the time over training an arm is worse than under training. Timing is everything!

4.    Specialization: A good program will include skills that are needed for the particular sport that the athlete is preparing for. If there is a desire to compete in a specific activity, then training should be structured to meet the demands of that activity. Different demands are placed on baseball pitchers than on softball pitchers and different demands are placed on a quarterback than on a tennis player.

5.    Intensity Level: Most of us never workout at our full potential. At lower levels, it takes much longer to achieve top physical condition. At higher levels, the risk of injury is much greater. Quality should always be considered to be more important than quantity of exercise. Minimize the number of throws... maximize the effort.

6.    Individuality and Capacity Level: The demands that are placed on the throwing arm should be based on the individual ability and fitness level of the athlete. A body is more at risk if a person tries to perform at a level for which he or she is not prepared. This capacity level may be increased gradually. All conditioning programs should be based on individual needs, goals and capacity levels.

7.    Strength, Endurance and Flexibility: These are the building blocks that will help anyone excel at his or her activity of choice, especially for the throwing athlete. These elements are necessary to perform at a high level in any activity. All exercise programs should include exercises, which enhance each of the areas of strength, muscular endurance and flexibility.

8.    Motivation: With motivation comes success. An athlete who is not motivated is more prone to injury than a person who has the desire to excel. The athlete should go into a workout with a positive attitude so that time is not wasted and improvement is great. An athlete must decide what will motivate his or her team or self.

9.    Skills and Techniques: An athlete should always use the proper skills and techniques in conditioning programs and in the throwing motion. Mechanical issues are a significant problem for most throwing athletes. When an athlete suffers from a mechanical problem, injuries occur. Working on the mechanics of throwing is not fun, but will pay off down the road in competition.

10.Consistency: An athlete should have a plan for a conditioning and throwing program and stick with it. A regular routine must be maintained in order to maintain a high level of physical condition. Consistency will also help avoid injury.

Above all, coaches and parents should make sure that their athlete is ready for the demands that will be placed upon them when practice and competition begin. An untrained, underdeveloped throwing arm with significant stresses placed upon it is a prime candidate for injury.