Protecting Your Student-Athlete’s Rotator Cuff
As baseball and softball season are underway it is always important to review information that can help keep your student-athletes healthy all season. The rotator cuff is a very important part of the shoulder and is critical to performance when repetitively throwing overhead, such as in baseball or with the windmill pitch used in softball. In order to allow the rotator cuff to continue to function in its appropriate manner, proper care and maintenance is needed.
To begin, there should be some type of return-to-throwing progression implemented. Coming out of the winter break with some degree of time off and rest (two to four months is recommended), it is important to build the arm back up for the season. There is usually cold weather early in the season in the Midwest, so proper buildup of throwing volume should be completed.
Re-focus attention to strength and posture, especially in the mid-back and scapular (shoulder blade) region. Adolescents sit for prolonged periods of time in the classroom, in front of their video games and have a tendency to be less active in the winter, so their posture tends to decline. The muscles in the middle and upper back are critical to support the rotator cuff. Exercises such as lying on your stomach with I, Y and T movements, as well as stretching/mobilizing the thoracic spine can assist in performance, as well as injury prevention.
Finally, there needs to be continued compliance with pitch count recommendations with coaches, families and players assisting in accountability of the limits. The season continues to expand for our student-athletes with spring, summer and fall leagues in recreational, as well as travel-type programs. It is common to see our throwers hurt in April and May, with the inability to participate for the remainder of the season.
Our goal is for the players to enjoy the wonderful games of baseball and softball without missing time due to rotator cuff or other injuries.
For more information on pitch counts, go to www.stopsportsinjuries.com.
Learn more about sports medicine at Children's Mercy.