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Shoulder Injuries in Baseball/Softball

Shoulder injuries are nothing new to throwing athletes, especially high school baseball/softball pitchers. The amount of force that is transferred through the shoulder joint (aka glenohumeral joint) when throwing is tremendous and can sometimes cross the threshold of what the body is able to handle. Whenever tissue demand exceeds tissue capacity, an injury has the chance to occur.

The best way to ensure that tissue capacity is always greater than tissue demand is to never get deconditioned (aka "out of shape") when out of season. Most early season injuries occur because of specific deconditioning. For example, a multi-sport athlete plays high school athletics year-round. Football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, maybe a short track season, and then right into baseball/softball. You might think that this athlete is "in shape" because they are playing sports year-round, but what is neglected are the specific demands of baseball and softball (especially in relation to the shoulder). How well does football (outside of playing QB), wrestling, and track prepare the shoulder for throwing a ball as hard as possible? I would argue... NOT THAT MUCH AT ALL!

There are two practical solutions to the above problem:

  1. Keep working baseball/softball specific skills on a regular basis YEAR-ROUND

  2. Ease into more intense throwing sessions for 4-6 weeks prior to the start of the season

Ultimately, the two points above operate under the S.A.I.D. Principle. "S.A.I.D." stands for "Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands." Throw a baseball/softball at game speed (demand) and all of the tissues involved in the throwing motion will get stronger and more resilient (adaptation). The S.A.I.D. Principle works in reverse, as well. Take 6 months off from all throwing motions (demand) and those tissues involved in throwing will become deconditioned (adaptation) and more prone to pain/injury when demand increases at the start of season. This is why applying one of the two options above is absolutely necessary for a pain-free, injury-free season. By either regularly throwing in the off-season or gradually increasing throwing demands in the 4-6 weeks prior to season we can impose the necessary demands on the shoulder to reduce the risk of pain/injury.

On a side note, there is no such thing as "injury prevention," so don't let anyone fool you into thinking they have the secret sauce to keep you injury-free! The only thing we can do is allow tissues to adapt to the demands of different tasks, and if a tissue is well-adapted to a certain task then the RISK for injury is decreased.

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