"It is amazing the unique way the staff works as a whole unit. You have created a terrific environment where hard work and fun made my visits with Bodycentral a totally positive experience!" - E. Campbell
I've heard it all too often "If I had just listened to my body and got help, I might have made it in MLB."
Ask Blake Eager his story and he will tell you "I wish I had this type of evaluation and treatment available to me when I was pitching". Blake pitched for the NY Mets organization and had a career ending injury. Currently he is coaching with Hills Baseball and works with Bodycentral Physical Therapy to keep pitchers healthy while improving performance. He also works with the Baseball and Softball Sports Physical Therapists at Bodycentral with video analysis of pitchers.
Too often we are seeing more and more career ending injuries that could have been prevented if they had been treated in the early stages. There are many things that can cause injury in baseball and softball players, but overuse tends to be the creator of most long term problems. Some of the things we know about pitchers in particular:
1) Bad Pitching Mechanics have been linked to overuse and breakdown injuries- Players should get a good foundation at a younger age so as they mature and start throwing harder, their bodies are in optimal alignment with pitching. Simple things like a stride length that is too short can cause problems in the elbow and anterior shoulder. A pitching coach that understands the optimal pitching mechanics is essential.
2) Weakness in the Rotator Cuff and Scapular Muscles- Let's face it- There's nothing "natural" about the pitching motion. It's a whirlwind of stressors on the body that requires a huge Braking system. Pitchers create momentum and have to slow it down and stop it as the pitch is released. This requires massive amounts of strength and control. If the rotator cuff (muscles in the shoulder) is weak or out of its perfect ratio in regards to strength, then the pitcher is asking for trouble. Weakness in the shoulder blade muscles also is a major disadvantage. You wouldn't want the brakes to go out on your car---that would cause a crash or massive destruction. The same is true in the rotator cuff and scapular muscles- these are the brakes. If these are too weak or aren't working to their potential--- the pitcher is headed for a crash....or Tommy John surgery or worse. Working with a PT specializing in baseball and softball injuries is key to find these specific issues and get them corrected!
3) Training and Throwing Schedule is Out of Control- More is better right? Pitch more, get better, faster...WRONG. More is better works for cheese on your pizza....but with pitching, more can be just that...More. More pain, More breakdown, More overuse injuries. A balance must be achieved between work and rest so the body can recover. Pushing through fatigue or pain is a bad idea. Throw one more pitch today----lose that Major League career tomorrow. Getting a balanced pitch and recover plan is essential.
4) Weakness in the Lower Body and Core- Show me a pitcher with elbow pain and I'll show you a pitcher that has lower body weakness. Pitching starts with the control and strength in the legs and transfers to the core. Pitchers with lower body weakness break down sooner and pitching mechanics suffer. If you have a pitching related injury, you need the entire body evaluated (Not just the part that hurts). Patients look at me crazily at times when they have shoulder pain and I'm testing the Left hip strength.....it's related...truly.
So What can you do if you want to pitch faster, get better at the craft.....but also decrease your chances of injury?
Bodycentral and Blake Eager have combined forces to provide the components for this recipe to success. Kenzie Fowler has joined forces with Bodycentral for Fastpitch Softball Players that want the same--- better performance, and decrease risk.
The Elite Baseball and Elite Softball Programs available at Bodycentral Physical Therapy Include:
1) Injury Treatment- If there has been an injury, our Sports Physical Therapists with treat the area prior to any performance training. Most of this is eligible for insurance coverage. Hands on treatments like instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, dry needling and other strategies are combined with rehabilitation exercises.
2) Injury Prevention Strategies- Our team of Sports Physical Therapists and Conditioning Specialists combine to provide preseason risk screens for teams. We recently screened players in Canyon View Little League as part of the safety program in their league. Strength training, and other strategies are included in these packages. Many of these services are provided free to organizations on a first come- first serve basis. Please email Jennifer Allen for more information or to have your group screened. mailto:email@example.com
3) The Elite Plan- This is the big one. This is for reducing injury risk and improving overall performance. This is what you would expect to see at the professional level of play. This includes video analysis of pitching, a full Medical Musculoskeletal head to toe evaluation as well as a strength and conditioning program developed specifically for the athlete. These evaluations are baseball and softball specific, and will highlight problems associated with pitching. With this evaluation, we find the areas that are potential trouble makers and get that addressed before they contribute to injury. Blake Eager and Kenzie Fowler are involved with this evaluation process so they bring Player and Coach insight into the Plan. They evaluate pitching from the coaching perspective and give players specific drills to improve in this area.
For More Information on these programs or to sign up- mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Jennifer Allen is a Board Certified Sports Specialist and heads the Baseball/Softball sports medicine team at Bodycentral Physical Therapy. She is the creator of the Elite Baseball and Softball programs at Bodycentral Physical therapy, and lectures in the areas of Biomechanics and Baseball/Softball injuries. She worked with the Arizona Heat Women's Professional Fastpitch Softball team in Tucson, AZ, and currently volunteers as the Canyon View Little League Safety Officer. For more information visit: http://www.BodycentralPT.net
When we talk about overuse injuries in baseball and softball, we generally discuss upper extremity conditions. Although those injuries are the most common, we are seeing more awareness and discussion of injuries to the hip.
How Do Injuries to the Hip Happen?
The activities of batting and throwing place high demands on the hips and put them at risk for injury. For instance with overhand pitching, during the wind up phase, a flexion and rotational force is placed on the hip. During the cocking phase, the hips are further apart and more loading stress is placed on them. As the pitcher moves from acceleration through the follow-through phases, the hips go through additional loading and rotational stresses. With Softball pitching, rotational forces occur in both the hips as the pitcher moves from a static standing position through the follow-through phase.
With Batting, during the stance or coiling phase, torque is placed on the back hip. As the batter moves through acceleration and follow-through, additional rotational forces are placed on the hips.
These are all normally occurring stresses that are just part of the games of baseball and softball. With normal stresses, there is a potential for injury. The potential for injury increases with the following risk factors:
1) Poor Biomechanics- Improper technique with any of the phases of batting, throwing or pitching can cause increase pressures and torque in the hip
2) Deficits in Mobility or Functional Movement- limitation in movement in any of the joints of the Lower body or Spine can contribute to increased problems in the hips
3) Deficits in Strength & Endurance- Weakness in the muscles of the hips or general "core" muscles can cause instability and result in increased pressures in the hips with activity. Fatigue can also play a part in these types of injuries- Arm fatigue is monitored for pitchers to alleviate the possibility of upper extremity problems, but we should also be monitoring lower body fatigue. If the lower body is weak or starts to break down, pitching accuracy will suffer and may be the first sign of fatigue.
4) Deficits in Proprioception/Balance- strength and flexibility are important, but being able to have balance on one leg and being able to shift weight and control motion is an important aspect in injury prevention. With poor balance, or awareness of body position, joints may move beyond their limits or may place undue strain on soft tissues that support them
5) Joint Abnormalities: abnormalities inside the joint may predispose players to certain types of joint "impingement" or pinching with movement. Repeated strain at these end ranges of motion can create pain and inflammation
Symptoms of Hip Injury
Symptoms of hip problems may be subtle at first and may just be tightness in the hip or buttock area. Other symptoms may include groin pain or aching into the thigh. As symptoms worsen, pain may be experienced at night or with the first few steps after sitting for a prolonged period. These symptoms are a sign that something is wrong in the area- the player should seek medical advice at the onset of these symptoms.
Screening for Risk Factors
A comprehensive baseball or softball program should include Pre-season screening, followed by preseason and off-season corrective actions to address any problems or deficits found during the screening process.
An ideal screen should include the following:
1) A regular pre-season Physical
2) Biomechanics Assessment- video assessment in slow motion during hitting/throwing or pitching
3) Flexibility & Strength screening
4) Screens of Specific Functional Movement Patterns
5) Balance & Stability Screens
The best injury treatment advice is to Avoid injury in the first place. Prevention strategies are the Key to keeping players healthy during their careers- if that is Little League Baseball...or all the way through the Majors.
Treatment for Hip Related Injuries
There are many conservative Physical Therapy treatments available for these types of hip injuries. Hands-on techniques, or manual therapy are an important part of rehabilitation as well as specific exercises to fix any muscle imbalances that may exist. Prior to returning to play, video biomechanical analysis is vital to look at throwing, pitching and hitting. This will help identify any mechanical or technique issues that could be causing problems in the hips.
Dr. Jennifer Allen is a Physical Therapist, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in the Areas of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, as well as a Certified Hand Therapist. Sports Programming at Bodycentral Physical Therapy includes Biomechanics assessment, video movement assessment, Injury Prevention, and individual and team performance enhancement. For more information visit www.BodycentralPT.netor call 520-325-4002.