Arm Care: Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset
Pitching can be the scariest position in all of sports. All alone on the mound feeling the pressure mount with each pitch. One mistake can change the entire game. However, the two scariest words for a pitcher isn’t “home run,” it’s “Tommy John.” Since the mid 1970’s pitchers have been going under the knife to repair themselves and prolong their career after a terrible injury. Tommy John Surgery is the reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Doctors will take another tendon from the body and use it to repair the ruptured or torn UCL. Dr. Frank Jobewas was the first to perform the procedure in 1974 on a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers named Tommy John. If you’re a pitcher or the parent of a pitcher, don’t fret, Tommy John Surgery is not the end of the world. There are ways to avoid it and it is possible to come back from it and be productive. But, this isn’t necessarily a look at Tommy John, just some simple ways to take care of a young arm in order to avoid future injury.
Every player must realize that just because you pitch doesn’t mean that one day you will have arm trouble. Taking care of your arm and your body at an early age is the best way to ensure a long and healthy career. Everyone is built differently based of genetics so there is not exactly one perfect way to resolve this issue, but the glaring obvious reason for pain seems to be simple lack of rest. You can still play the game of baseball as a pitcher at a young age and still have a long career ahead of you. One of the main problems surrounding this complicated issue is simply the misunderstanding of the pitcher position. All it takes is a little research to see for yourself and you can take some simple steps to protect your arm. No one is happy when a player goes down with an injury, so look out for symptoms of arm pain to ensure health for your young ballplayer.
Taking care of your throwing arm is not rocket science. Along with all the extensive research that has taken place over the years, a little common sense goes a long way in arm care. There are basic guidelines that should be followed for all age groups in taking care of your arm. Playing catcher is not a second position that a pitcher should play seeing the extensive amount of throwing a catcher does throughout the game and season. Obviously parents and coaches should be on the lookout for signs of fatigue, but linked with that should be ample rest time. Properly warming up can be the most important part of preparing for game day and helping an adolescent arm. Setting limits based on age, the older the kid the more he can throw, and taking time off are huge factors in arm durability. Kids 12 and under’s main focus should be having fun and learning the game. Playing other sports and taking at least 4 months off in the year will go a long way for children this age. Pitching in youth age (14 and under) is when the over use can become a problem. This is also when a young pitcher can begin to work on a breaking ball, however, fastballs and changeup should still be the primary pitches in their arsenal. Starting from a young age you can take simple steps that will be an enormous help down the road.
We do not have the medical technology yet to completely rid players of arm pain, but there steps to help avoid it. It is important to remember that every player is different. Some players may need extra rest before pitching again and some kids are built to require less rest. Will pitching 20 pitches in the first game of a double header then pitching another 30 in the second game ruin a player’s arm? Of course not, but taking action at the first sign of arm fatigue and the proper rest are your best bets at a healthy throwing arm. Make sure you get plenty of rest between each outing properly warm your arm up. Don’t take the easy way out and don’t be lazy. Take care of your arm. You’re just setting yourself up for heartache in the future when you can’t play the game you enjoy.