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How to Save My Athletes Arm

How to Save My Athlete's Arm

Softball may not be high on the list of top injury-prone sports, but there’s frequent maintenance to ensure long-term years of playing. Travel softball has grown immensely over the years, and it seems like the best of the best are trying to get ahead by playing as much as possible. The problem with this is that elite players as young as 13-14 play every weekend and practice 2-3 times a week. When kids are this age, we assume that they don’t feel the aches and pains like adults, but many young athletes are starting to experience arm pain. When I reference arm pain, it’s usually referring to overhand throwing. We see a lot of arm pain in baseball pitchers because the throw is not considered a natural body movement, unlike a softball pitch. This is why softball pitchers can throw multiple games in a row and sometimes even back to back. In contrast, baseball pitchers usually throw a few innings before being relieved. Knowing this, we still have position players constantly throwing without time off, which could have lasting effects through college. Here are some helpful tips to reduce arm pain throughout the years.

1. Proper arm mechanics. There is a way to throw overhand to put the least amount of stress on an athlete’s arm. There are tons of videos out there showing proper arm mechanics for an overhand throw. If your athlete throws sidearm from a young age, this will likely translate into arm pain in the future. Of course, we know that great shortstops will throw sidearm because it becomes necessary, but there is a time and a place for it. If they play a whole round of catch throwing sidearm, especially at a young age, it will probably result in surgery later down the road.
2. Rest. It can be challenging to determine whether an athlete is experiencing pain from overuse, soreness, or something more severe without seeing a doctor. If your athlete is constantly complaining of arm pain, you should first determine if it’s something serious that should be looked at. If you can determine it’s not serious, then the next thing you should try is just rest. If you feel your athlete would fall behind their peers for not participating, remember that they’d be even more behind later on when they’re sitting out from an injury or surgery.
3. Stretching. This is a huge factor in reducing pain in any part of the body that people often don’t take seriously enough. Stretching can eliminate a minor injury like pulling a muscle. Players need to stretch their arms before any softball activity. Many colleges are putting their players through band stretching programs. They’ll clip the bands to a fence and do a full-range arm motion program to get them ready to throw. This is something that could be implemented in travel ball teams as well.
4. Ice. Don’t get us wrong, we know ice is not the answer to everything, but icing an arm after a day of throwing can be beneficial. Ice should only be applied where there is soreness for 20 minutes AFTER physical activity. Icing before activity will only make the arm tighter rather than the loose feeling you want.