Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Stretching your shoulder before, during and after pitching feels like the right thing to do. Yes, it feels good to stretch your shoulder as it can provide temporary relief of shoulder pain. However, a shoulder is a mobile joint and you never want to stretch a mobile joint. You want that joint as stable as possible to be able to handle the violent motions that occur during throwing a baseball (or any object).
Shoulder injuries are the biggest risk to pitchers’ careers. Once a pitcher injures his shoulder, he returns to pre-injury velocity less than 30% of the time. For reference, pitchers return to pre-injury velocity greater than 90% of the time with an elbow injury. (Obviously, you also want to avoid an elbow injury as well. The most famous elbow injury is the tearing of the UCL which requires Tommy John surgery. Recovery from that injury is long and arduous and requires superior medical care and extensive rehab to get back to where you were.)
The reason we don’t stretch the shoulder is because the shoulder joint is like a golf ball on a tee. Its not very stable, which is the reason that the shoulder dislocates more than any other joint. Stretching loosens the soft tissue and ligaments around the shoulder, which leads to instability. The throwing motion both dislocates and stretches the shoulder. Therefore, we need to do everything we can to stabilize it to be able to withstand those rigors, not stretch it and provide more risk of injury.
So, what can you do to prevent shoulder injuries if stretching is not the answer?
First, you want to warm up to throw, not throw to warm up before you pitch or throw an object with any intensity (this includes position players as well). Go through a warmup routine, like the National Pitching Association’s training blocks 1-4, that focus on elevating your core temp, pre-throwing preparation including joint care, blood flow and circulation, lactic acid management, flexibility and stability that helps stabilize the shoulder joint while preparing it for the throwing motion.
Second, stabilize the shoulder joint with weekly joint integrity work that includes the NPA pre-throwing block training as well as their Nerve Pathway Patterning drills with a pitching towel which also works on arm strength and arm speed, PNF drills, Light Dumbbell workout, Elastic Band workout, Plyo ball workout and Weighted Ball training.
You can check out these workouts by becoming an NPA member or finding an NPA certified coach like JA Pitching near you at nationalpitching.com. Not getting into a joint integrity routine is a major risk factor for injury and you can’t help your team from the bench. The best ability is availability.