As the smell of fresh cut grass hits the air and infields are meticulously drug, it can only mean one thing…it’s baseball and softball season. As these seasons start, countless players take to their respective fields with their coaches, teammates, and parents alike and begin looking forward to a successful season. While numerous factors influence the achievement of a successful season, a team’s performance and ability to stay healthy are both critical to a team’s win-loss record.
In youth athletics, there is often a sole emphasis on optimizing performance rather than promoting health preservation through baseball and softball seasons. While injury prevention cannot overcome poor technique, there should be a component of movement training and injury prevention in place for the team and each athlete.
While an individualized, position specific program will yield optimal results, there are certain areas of focus that all programs for overhead athletes should have.
Control Stabilization and Trunk/Pelvic Control
Whether it is a prone plank, side plank, an anti-rotational control activity, or a medicine ball slam or chop, all programs should promote trunk strength and pelvic control. If a young athlete is inefficient at controlling their core, power is lost and energy can be placed on undesired tissues and structures.
Hip Power and Engagement
Ask any knowledgeable player or coach, strong hips that can be well engaged during the hitting motion, takes a decent hit and turns it in to a strong shoot to the outfield. In addition to the performance component, we also want to engage our posterior lateral hip muscles through such activities as squat walks and trained plyometric jumping and cutting to decrease risk of ACL injury.
Our shoulder blade serves as the platform and foundation for our shoulder to produce movement and power off of. Therefore, if we are unable to stabilize and control the scapula, the upper quarter system becomes inefficient and at risk of injury. This area can be focused upon with traditional I, T, and Y exercises or with an exercise that incorporates a kettlebell to challenge the scapular stabilizers.
Rotator Cuff Engagement
The anatomy of our shoulder is a ball and socket joint. To shift sports for a moment, an analogy often used to describe the anatomy is golf. The glenohumeral joint is much like that of a golf ball on a golf tee. Given this insight, it becomes obvious that an overhead throwing athlete needs strong stabilizing muscles to control this anatomy…this stabilization comes in the form of the rotator cuff musculature. While numerous highly effective functional based strengthening activities exist, even the traditional external rotation and internal rotation exercises are neutral and 90 degrees with a theraband can be highly benefit your athletes shoulder health and injury risk.
Mobility and Stretching
The sports of softball and baseball are like many others in the way of being based upon asymmetric movement patterns. Outside of your occasional hitter that can jump into either batter’s boxes and swing well right hand and left, the greater majority are swinging and throwing in respect to their hand dominance. Given this, we need to make sure we are promoting stretching and mobility work to offset this asymmetric pattern. Such tools as foam rollers and massage sticks are a great way for your athlete to promote tissue health in conjunction with a stretching program.
If anything is to be taken from this blog, it is to be ProActive (yes, I used the company name) with your baseball and softball athlete’s health and look to prevent injury, rather than waiting and reacting. As one of my own former coaches would often say, fancy doesn’t mean good. A well rounded program can be done on the field with no more than therabands on a carbineer attached to the fence and possibly a few small pieces of equipment to keep it fun and fresh with your athletes staying engaged in the injury prevention process. In doing this, you are taking your athlete’s health in your hands and decreasing their risk of injury.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and good luck this season. I hope each of your ball players stay healthy and strong and keep swinging for the fences.
ProActive always offers a Free Pain Assessment, fill out the form to get scheduled today.
Author: Brian M Zukowski, PT, DPT, COMT
Physical Therapist, Clinical Director, and Southern AZ Regional Operations Director