If your pitcher is in pain, we need to talk. In recent months, we are getting a lot of referrals for new kids who hurt when they pitch. Coaches, other pitchers, and colleges are starting to send students our way because nobody else can explain why they hurt or how to fix it.
There are two words that we hear too often. Tendonitis and overuse. Both are typically caused by the same thing; abuse. If you are working a joint, tendon, or muscle in an inefficient way, it is going to cause problems. To put it another way, you have been using it in a way it was not intended, meaning you are abusing it. If you keep doing it, many medical professionals explain the pain with the two words above. They are explaining the result of your actions, but it can be more important to find the root cause of the problem. That often lies outside of their area of expertise. Medical professionals do a great job of identifying the result, but they are not usually trained to know the proper movements in every sport. You could bring them a video of your form but most would not know where to look for problems.
Almost without exception, injured kids who are referred to us go back to pitching with no pain and soon find themselves performing far better than before. They simply had form issues as a result of things they were taught. Nobody really notices them until the pitcher gets older and stronger. One day she gets frustrated because she is no longer getting better and tries to push harder. Suddenly pain results. Sometimes a kid gets into a big tournament, pitches too many innings, fatigue causes the body to compensate, and the weakest link in the chain begins to erode. Sometimes bad weather or field conditions can cause the same thing. A little weakness in form did not seem significant until she called on the body for extraordinary effort. It is like trying to drive across a speed bump at 90 miles per hour. You can do it once, but something is likely to come apart.
So, let’s do a little quiz. Do you know what causes the following symptoms in a pitcher?
-Knees hurt when pitching
-Ankle rolls a lot or she wears braces
-Lower back pain
-Knots underneath, or between, the shoulder blades
-Pain outside the shoulder
-Pain in the front of the shoulder
-Crunching or popping in the shoulder
-Numbness or swelling of the hand and lower arm
-Bicep tendon pain
-Pain in center of upper back
Even more importantly, do you know what kind of doctor, trainer, therapist, or pitching expert to consult when you have these problems? Each can require a very different specialty? And, which should you see first?
Who you should see first is very important. A doctor can prescribe ice, rest, and anti-inflamatories, but unless you address the root cause of the problem, the pain is very likely to return. A therapist or chiropractor can often get to the root of the pain, but unless you correct the poor movement pattern, you are very likely to continue to suffer. An extremely qualified trainer is a wonderful source for preventing and recovering from injuries, but you must correct movement patterns while correcting weaknesses in the body to change your old habits to more efficient and healthy actions.
Always check the movement pattern first. In the past two years we have brought more than 230 kids back to pitching who were suffering injuries or pain. Several were scheduled for surgeries which could have ended their career. So far we have been able to keep all of them out of surgery. We hope that outcome continues, but we know that, as our reputation in this area grows, we will meet kids who waited too late to seek help and that streak will come to an end.
When we discuss this topic, you should realize there is one important exception to the points we made earlier. If a kid suffers a trauma type of injury it can be a different case. For example, she injures the knee when she hits a base wrong or she dives for a ball and injures a shoulder. But, don’t be too quick to blame bad luck. Even in these cases, most of the time we are able to identify weaknesses in her strength training that made the body more susceptible to injury.
Most injuries are due to form issues. Quite often they are due to strength, flexibility, and conditioning issues. Our job is to recognize these and help point you to our experts, such as Robbie Hebert, who does our strength training. Or, we may refer you to someone like Dr. Bolin, who writes for our newsletters. These are two individuals who have taken the time to study the movement patterns with us, get to the root of the problem, and get you back on the field in quick and healthy fashion.
That being said, the first thing we are always going to do is assess your movement patterns in the actual pitch. There are many places where timing, angles, tension, or inappropriate movements cause a breakdown. It causes kids to plateau. It causes frustration and fatigue. Worst of all, it eventually causes them to subconsciously slow down to prevent injury, or they try to push through the barrier and began a painful journey.
If she hurts, feel free to contact me. It’s okay to tell your friends as well. We stay extremely busy, but will get to you as soon as possible. We are glad to help you explore options because, first and foremost, we believe it should be about the kids. We have been through the frustration, the fear, and the confusion. If we can help others avoid that it makes our day.