As the spring seasons are upon us, we are starting to see a few athletes make their way in to the clinic for various aches and pains and even some more serious injuries. We talk a lot about off-season rest times and injury prevention programs for the overhead athlete, so why do these injuries occur so early in the spring season?
There are several factors to consider when evaluating any overhead athlete at this time of the year:
- What did the off-season look like? Was there at least two months of complete rest?
- Age of the athlete? Different age groups need different rest times.
- How did the athlete ramp up for try-outs; did they do a progressive throwing program?
- When are they feeling the pain? Consider phases of throwing and whether the pain occurs during or post activity?
- Did they do lessons all off-season? (This does not constitute “rest” time).
- Did they try to pitch (or other overhead motion) 100% their first outing and how many innings did they go?
Often what I find this time of the year is athletes starting up from rest and not doing a proper progressive throwing program or injury prevention program. Not many coaches understand the concept of a progressive throwing program. We work with a local high school team and implement a progressive throwing program starting in January and building to try outs. Over the past two years we have seen a significant reduction in soreness and injuries to this team in the beginning of the season. We have also implemented a 3-phase injury prevention program that gradually increases scapular stability and kinetic chain mobility. It’s an exciting program to develop and follow with these athletes.
So what exactly is a progressive throwing program? There are a variety of programs published in the literature for athletes recovering from an injury. The basic concept behind these programs is to gradually increase volume, distance and intensity over a period of time. This progression allows the arm to gradually get accustomed to the very unnatural act of throwing. If an athlete is recovering from a surgery such as Tommy John, then this progression should last at least 6 months, longer if the athlete is a pitcher. But if this is an athlete that is just gearing up for the season, the progression can be customized for anywhere between 4-8 weeks.
When customizing a program here are a few points to consider:
- Age of the athlete
- Size of the field
- Position they play
- Prior injuries
- Time to get ready for the season
For more guidance on this important topic, join me for Advanced Concepts for the Overhead Athlete, a two-day course designed to education health care providers on the uniqueness of overhead athletes. It will be held in Falls Church, VA in May and Colorado Springs, CO in July. Register today and learn more how you can implement a throwing programs and injury prevention program for your local athletes, and browse other upcoming manual therapy courses across the country.
Angela T. Gordon PT, DSc, MPT, COMT, OCS, ATC
Co-Founder Advanced Kinetics Physical Therapy and Sports Performance
Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist
Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist
Certified Athletic Trainer