5 Ways to Stay Healthy During Baseball/Softball Season

Posted: March 14, 2016 in Baseball, Mobility, Softball, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The start of the spring season for youth baseball is almost upon us, and high school and college baseball have been going strong for a few weeks now, so this seems like an appropriate time to talk about a few common problems that baseball and softball players can run into during the season. These are all fixable problems, but if left unchecked they can lead to injuries down the line, so it’s a good idea to get out in front of these issues and try to prevent them before they start.

Youth baseball players, especially those in their late tweens/early teens, may be at a higher risk of injury due to an increased load placed on their bodies during the season. Around age 12, these athletes start playing longer seasons on bigger fields, with additional demands from fall ball to consider as well. Also, these athletes typically don’t participate in good offseason training programs to prepare their bodies for this kind of load. When you take young, unprepared athletes and subject their bodies to a much heavier load than they’re used to, injuries have a tendency to occur.

However, we know that baseball players tend to suffer similar injuries/lose mobility/lose strength in basically the same areas, which means that we can be proactive and address these potential problems before they start, thereby greatly decreasing the likelihood that a baseball player will suffer an injury. To that end, here are 5 exercises/stretches you can do to keep yourself healthy throughout the season:

1) Sleeper Stretch

The most common arm problem that arises in throwing athletes is a loss of internal rotation in the throwing shoulder. This is especially prevalent among baseball pitchers, but it has the potential to arise in any throwing athlete. Now, it is important to note that a loss of internal rotation is actually considered a “normal” finding in throwing athletes. Typically, a throwing athlete will exhibit less internal rotation, but more external rotation on their throwing side. As long as the total range of motion of the shoulder (Internal Rotation + External Rotation) is roughly the same in each shoulder, it’s not a big issue. But it’s a good idea to do the sleeper stretch on a regular basis to make sure you don’t lose internal rotation to a point where the total motion in the throwing shoulder is affected. Stack your shoulders one on top of the other, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and gently push your throwing arm hand towards the floor for 3 sets of 60 seconds.

shoulder internal rotation stretch

shoulder internal rotation stretch
2) Serratus Slide

Scapular winging is a common finding in baseball players, most often caused by weakness in the serratus anterior. Winging, like a lack of internal rotation, is another condition that is correlated with a higher risk of arm injury, so keeping the serratus anterior strong throughout the season should be a priority for any throwing athlete. The key when performing a serratus slide is to make sure the shoulder blades are protracting and upwardly rotating instead of just shrugging, so think about trying to wrap your shoulder blades around the front of your body and push the elbows up without shrugging.

Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

serratus anterior strength exercise

serratus anterior strength exercise
 3) Internal Rotation Hip Stretch

Most people don’t consider the hips when thinking about how to prevent arm injuries, but loss of internal rotation in the glove-side hip has been shown to lead to throwing arm injuries in some studies. This loss of hip mobility is caused by the repetitive nature of throwing, and is most often found in pitchers.

There are a couple of ways to do this stretch, the first of which is to bend both knees to 90 degrees, spread your feet as far apart as you can, then try to touch your knees together by internally rotating the hips.

Another variation that I like better is to internally rotate one leg at a time, then push that hip into the floor.

The best way to do it, however, is to have a partner help you out. Lay on your stomach with the glove-side knee bent to 90 degrees and the arm-side leg straight. Then have your partner pin the arm-side hip down with their knee while pushing the glove-side hip towards the floor and holding your knee in place.

The goal should be to achieve 45-60 degrees of internal rotation on each hip, with an equal amount of mobility on each hip. Hold each stretch for 3 sets of 45-60 seconds.

hip stretch

4) Bench Lat Mobilizations

The lats are a common tight muscle group in baseball and softball players, and this should be addressed in their post- and between-game stretching routines. This is a variation of the common Bench Lat Mobilization that I started using with my baseball and softball players this year. I like this variation better than the traditional “praying stance” lat mobilizations because it acts more directly on the lats. Place one elbow on a bench, then use your opposite side hand to brace your arm and prevent it from internally rotating. From this position, push your chest towards the ground until you feel a stretch in your lat, keeping your core braced throughout the motion. Repeat 10-20 times for 2-3 sets on each side.

latissimus dorsi stretch

latissimus dorsi stretch
 5) Pec Minor Corner Stretch

In addition to serratus anterior weakness, another potential cause of scapular winging is tightness in the pectoralis minor. This comes as a result of frequent throwing, and should be addressed with stretching and soft tissue work on the pec minor. The best way to stretch the pec minor by yourself is with the pec minor corner stretch, where you’ll place the front of your throwing shoulder against the corner of a wall, and then turn your head and body as far away from the wall as you can while maintaining a braced core and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Repeat for 3 sets of 45-60 seconds.

pec minor stretch

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