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A Comprehensive Guide to Arm Care & Recovery

The Best Ability is Availability – A Comprehensive Guide To Proper Arm Care

As a baseball pitcher, your arm is your most valuable asset. Proper care and maintenance are essential to ensure health and peak performance on the mound. You want to prepare to compete, you recover, then you repeat. If you don't recover properly, you start in a deficit and that's when injury occurs. Here's a comprehensive guide covering the critical factors of arm care and recovery:


Hydration

Staying hydrated is key to maintaining optimal performance and preventing injuries. Hydrate early and often – if you wait until game time, it is too late. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, including before, during, and after games and practices. A good rule to follow is to hydrate ½ to 1/3 of your body weight in fluid ounces daily and an additional 7-10oz for every 10-20 minutes of exercise. Avoid sugary drinks and excessive caffeine, as they can lead to dehydration – water is the only real form of hydration and ideally an alkaline water where you add Celtic Sea Salt for electrolytes.


Nutrition

Proper nutrition is crucial for maintaining overall health and supporting muscle recovery. Aim for a balanced diet rich in lean proteins (30% of diet) with 1 gram of protein for every lb you weigh, healthy fats (30% of diet) including Omega 3 and EFA’s and supplementing these if necessary, and complex carbohydrates (40% of diet) with a glycemic index less than 60. Foods high in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, can help reduce inflammation and promote recovery. Use supplements such as a mega vitamin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Alpha Lipoic Acid. Optional supplements to help with recovery include creatine and vitamin B12.


Sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for muscle recovery and overall health. Aim for 7.5-9 hours of quality sleep per night and ideally waking up between REM cycles by establishing a consistent bedtime routine. Sleep dark covering all ambient light and sleep cold as sleeping hot produces more lactic acid delaying recovery. To maximize growth hormone production, focus on getting more sleep before midnight.


Proper Warm-Up

A thorough dynamic warm-up is essential to prepare your arm and body for pitching. You want to warm up to throw, not throw to warm up. Throwing a baseball before a proper warmup can be harder on your arm than going over your recommended pitch count. Start your warmup by elevating your core temperature to increase blood flow to your muscles, ligaments and tendons -  then incorporate dynamic stretches and mobility drills that are cross-specific to pitching.


Proper Mechanics

Correct pitching mechanics are important for preventing injuries and maximizing performance. Work with a National Pitching Association coach to ensure your mechanics are efficient and address any issues promptly. You are only as efficient as your most inefficient movement, strength recruited out of sequence adds unnecessary stress to your arm and shoulder.  Further, having good mechanics will help you throw with more accuracy and ultimately decrease your pitch counts per inning, which is a critical factor of how much stress you put on your arm during an outing.

  

Adapting Your Arm

Generally, pitchers pitch too much and don’t throw enough. You should throw year-round but stay off the mound and from pitching in games for at least 2 months of the year – ideally in late fall so you can begin to ramp back up a few months before the start of the next season. After your 2-month hiatus from the mound, you want to gradually increase your work load each week to avoid overuse injuries and take breaks when necessary. Listen to your arm & shoulder and adjust your pitching workload as needed. Never throw through pain and recognize your signs of fatigue (usually loss of command and velocity due to compensation mechanics).


Workload Balance

Follow pitch count guidelines to prevent overuse injuries. Fatigue is the primary cause of injury – it increases injury likelihood by 36x. The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) recommends limiting pitch counts based on age to reduce the risk of arm injuries. A good tool to use to help manage custom workloads is the ArmCare.Com app as you can constantly monitor your arm’s strength and range of motion. When you see your strength is low or range of motion is decreasing, you can manage your workload for the day appropriately, and when your strength is high, you can push yourself a little harder that day to increase your workload capacity and have more reps to develop. Additionally, you should treat your arm like a bank account. When you pitch, you are taking energy out of your arm. You want to make sure you put that energy back into your arm before you pitch again and maintain a positive energy balance.


Functional Strength

You are only as strong as your weakest link. Your weakest link will be where an injury will usually present itself, or the weak link could create compensations causing a trickle down affect and cause injury to other parts of the body that take on extra stress due to the area of weakness.  Functional strength (as opposed to absolute strength) for pitchers or throwers means strength in the movements associated with throwing and with each movement, you have balanced strength to both accelerate at an optimal level, but also decelerate that movement effectively. For example, with throwers, you want equal strength between your internal rotator muscles and external rotator muscles. Having functional strength will optimize performance and reduce injury risk.


Windows of Trainability

There are critical periods in a pitcher's development when they are more receptive to different types of training stimuli. Take advantage of these windows by incorporating age-appropriate training techniques to maximize your potential and stay healthy. For example, it doesn’t help an 8-year old to strength train with heavy weights or to throw or hold heavy weighted balls.


Stabilized Mobility

Maintaining adequate stable mobility is essential for proper pitching mechanics and injury prevention. Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into your routine to improve flexibility and joint stability.


Conventional Wisdoms

Commons "old school" thought processes like icing and running poles have been proven to not be the best approach to recovery, but still many are actively using those approaches. Icing restricts blood flow, and you need more blood flow, not less, to facilitate recovery. There are NPA training blocks than can help increase blood flow to start the recovery process as well as devices like the MarcPro (use code ULTIMATE for a discount) that will help with active recovery.


In conclusion, proper arm care for baseball pitchers involves a comprehensive approach and constant monitoring. By incorporating these practices into your routine, you can optimize your arm health and performance on the mound. Being a member of and/or working with a National Pitching Association certified coach will provide the guidance you need to stay healthy and achieve your personal optimal performance capabilities.



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