For those who watched the World Series and the Boston Red Sox take their third in the past 10 years, baseball season is over and the attention has focused to another sport. But for others, the end of the baseball season means it is time to start preparing for next season. The question that often gets brought up to us as physiotherapists is:
“When should I (or my kid) begin my off-season throwing program?”
When it comes to off-season training there are many theories and you may get different advice from everyone you ask. However, training should not come from a book, or be the same for everyone. It should start with you and your goals, your physical abilities, and maturity. But, ultimately, is your body ready? If you have suffered any injuries or if there are any underlying issues that are impairing your performance, training too soon before your body is ready may only lead to an off-season injury that can last well into next season. When we talk about underlying issues or injuries, we mean ANY, not just those in your throwing arm. Do you have an ankle issue that just has not gone away? Even though you may think a small or minor injury is not affecting you, it can and will. First thing before beginning your off-season training is to make sure you are in good health and injuries are addressed.
Next, what are your goals? Are you in the MLB and your goal is to get to game 7 in the next World Series? Or are you a youth athlete competing for the starting pitching position on a new team? As you can see, one is looking long term and has likely secured his roster spot. The other is looking to make the biggest impression early on and is not even thinking about the end of the season. So while the youth athlete may start training earlier, that does not mean he or she needs to train harder. Overuse is very common in youth athletes, especially young pitchers, which leads us into the next question to consider before beginning an off-season throwing program.
What are your physical abilities and maturity? As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, injuries from overuse in baseball pitchers are common amongst our youth. Why? Because bones are still growing, muscles are still developing, mechanics are changing. There is no benefit to training too hard in the off-season just to blow out your arm the first few games. The winter is a great time to work on mechanics and techniques, but be aware of how much and hard you are throwing. Research has shown that if you throw more than 100 innings or pitch more than 10 months out of the year, you are over 3x more likely to get injured. Maturity also takes into account mental maturity. If you have stress outside of baseball, or the off-season program itself is causing you mental stress, you need to slow down. Your body and mind work hand in hand; if one is off, the other will be too. Make sure to create a program you feel comfortable with. Take care of outside stressors to make sure they do not interfere with your physical well-being. Baseball season starts in the off-season, but make sure the time is right before you jump into your off-season throwing program. Take care of your body and mind and they will take care of you.
If you have any questions, or would like a personalized off-season assessment, stop into one of our clinics today throughout the Winnipeg area to make sure you stay injury free and maximize your off-season training.