The baseball and softball season is coming to an end for many athletes who can’t play outside year ‘round, but that doesn’t mean their game should go into hibernation. A simple maintenance plan which includes throwing specific exercises, rest from the throwing motion and finding a nearby batting cage can keep you sharp over the off season.
“For youth players, we recommend picking three months out of the calendar year where there’s no throwing,” says Jonny Diercks, TRIA Certified Athletic Trainer. “They don’t have to be consecutive months, and you could even be ‘resting’ your arm while you’re playing another sport.”
Jonny says a lot of players don’t realize that they need to take care of their throwing arm in the off-season. Arm pain is not a normal part of playing ball. The off season is the best time to address pain and, if needed, have someone who understands the throwing motion look at your mechanics.
“Think of it like withdrawing money from your bank account,” he says. “Each time you throw the ball during your regular season, you are taking money out. The off season is your time to contribute back to your account or you’ll be broke. After using your arm all season, you need to do things like basic stretching, along with muscular strengthening and endurance work to keep it—and your body—conditioned and prepared for the spring.”
Jonny recommends the ‘Thrower’s Ten’ exercise program, widely available on the internet, which covers much of what you need to replenish that physical bank account.
“In the throwing motion, half the energy should come from the legs and core, and the other half from the arm,” he says. “If you’re not using a full body focus for the throw, you could run into overuse injuries. Your arm is trying to put all the power and velocity into the throw, instead of allowing the legs and core to pitch in. It’s like one person trying to do the work of three.”
As the new season approaches, four to six weeks of gradual progression in amount and intensity of throws prior should help get you ready. Don’t wait until the last minute.
“If it’s three days before tryouts and you’re picking up a ball for the first time, it’s too late,” Jonny says. “Not having a pre-season conditioning program can really cost you.”
There’s one more thing young throwers can work on, even while they have their nose buried in their phones: posture.
“Shoulder strength and stability comes from good posture, so pull those shoulder blades down and back,” Jonny says. “You can work on it anytime and it’s an easy way to build the foundation throwers need to stay in the game.
As for hitting, Jonny says two or three trips to the batting cage per week should help you keep your timing and fine-tune your swing.
The off-season is also a good time to get a regular sports physical. At a sports physical appointment, a doctor will assess the overall health of your child, discuss any concerns and make sure your child is in tip-top shape for the upcoming baseball season.
The frequency of required sports physicals depends on where you live. In Minnesota, a sports physical is required every three years. Wisconsin usually requires a sports physical every other year. Learn more about sports physicals.