Summer softball/baseball teams/leagues are forming and a crucial component of one’s success and wellbeing is the restoration of functional mobility and strength about the shoulder girdle. Starting this process a few months prior to game day will allow for adequate time to prevent a season ending injury and/or limited function due to pain and fatigue.
Shoulder Function Declines with Age
As is classically the case, shoulder function decreases as the years go by, with it, the effort to maintain strength and mobility as time for exercise tends to be pushed to the wayside. Yet, the inherent desire to function at an esteemed level remains strong. Thus arises the equation for disaster as a shortstop makes a throw from deep in the hole, or an outfielder deep in the alley. The pain used to go away in a day or two……
An example of a no more.
To help the recreational throwing athlete to not only survive but potentially thrive, give the following stretches a try. This in conjunction with a progressive long throwing program is a best bet for longevity on the ball field.
Long toss program can be found at: http://files.leagueathletics.com/Images/Club/11891/THROWING.PRG.general.pdf
If there is no one to play catch with, one can purchase an official weight soft baseball and head to a brick wall at the nearest elementary school.
The following stretches should be done in a gentle fashion without the production of pain greater than a 2 or 3 on a 0 to 10 scale where “0” is no pain and “10” is intolerable pain. Mobility gains should be appreciated every week though will be of diminishing magnitude as mobility nears that of “normal”. Persistent pain with throwing should be evaluated by a physician or physical therapist specializing in shoulder injuries.
GRASP BEHIND THE BACK: Interlock arms behind the back, sliding the hand toward the opposite elbow. At a point of a mild stretch, stand tall driving the chest forward and upward till an additional stretch is felt thru the shoulder. This stretch improves upon shoulder internal rotation which occurs during the follow thru portion of the throwing motion.
WALL SLIDE WITH LIFT OFF: With one toe against the wall (doesn’t matter which one), slide both arms overhead. At the top of the arc, alternate lifting an arm away from the wall. The thumb is pointed behind you, remember to keep the elbow straight. Pause for 2-3 seconds to gently stretch the shoulder, then return the hand to wall and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 3-5 times with each arm then slide the hands down the wall to head height. Rest for a moment and repeat this sequence 2-3 more times. This stretch enhances the ability to come over the top in the throwing motion.
BLADE PUTTER/POLE AND TAPE STRETCH: With throwing arm straight out to the side and elbow bent to 90 degrees. Position the pole of putter on the back side of the upper arm while grasping the lower end with the other hand (thumb points forward). Slowly move the lower end of the pole/putter forward to stretch into backward (external) rotation. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat if ongoing progress is made. There should never be sharp pain at the top of the shoulder. This stretch enhances the cocking phase of the throwing motion.
ARM CIRCLE: Lying on the side with the non-throwing shoulder on the floor or exercise mat. The goal is to circumduct, ultimately in both clock wise and counter clock wise positions. When the arm is in front of the body, the palm is down. When the arm is behind the body, the palm is up. Never push into pain which may occur between the 10:00 and 2:00 position. This is a great exercise to maintain mobility thru the torso as well as necessary rotational motion thru the shoulder.
CROSS BODY STRETCH: Grasp the throwing elbow with opposite hand and draw the elbow across the torso until there is a stretch in the back of the shoulder. There should not be pain at the top of the shoulder. Hold 10-30 seconds, repeat if further progress is made. Muscles, ligaments etc. of the posterior aspect of the shoulder act as a decelerator and the soft tissue structures addressed here tend to become tight with repetitive throwing.
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