Proper Rest and Cross Training Prevent Arm Injuries and Need for Tommy John UCL Reconstruction

upper extremity sports medicineHow can I rest my throwing arm when there is never any off-season?

In high school and college we have our respective school teams. After those Spring seasons…there is travel ball. Then Fall ball. And Showcases. Of course, there’s AAU and other tournaments.

I am often asked by parents what their kids can do to avoid injuring their throwing elbows and shoulders.

The foundation and principles for remaining in the game and taking care of your arm have been well-established. They include – but are not limited to – adhering to pitch counts, proper mechanics, not throwing when fatigued or tired, and ensuring proper rest between outings especially for starting pitchers.

But the risk of having a significant shoulder or elbow injury – the most significant of which would be injury to the elbow ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) necessitating UCL or Tommy John surgery – is very real.

These days, there is tremendous opportunity – but also real pressure – to be involved in baseball around the clock. Weight training is not only done by all players now, but it is done at an increasingly earlier age. Teams and opportunities to play or showcase are essentially year around. Some parents have told me that if their child is not playing in baseball or softball all 12 months out of the year that they will “fall behind their peers” – it’s just what they believe.

It’s important that we remember to cross train. No one sport can provide any and all of the work and exercise required to be the best athlete possible. We all need to mix in and incorporate other activities and forms of exercise to improve our overall athletic skill set – that includes our strength, flexibility, agility, hand-eye coordination, the psychological and mental aspects pertinent to our sports, and the list goes on and on.

If you love an overhead throwing sport such as baseball or softball, try to get involved in some other activities. Running, swimming, yoga and basketball are just a few sports and activities that can help round out your athletic performance.

This issue comes up every summer when high school and collegiate teams have ended their respective seasons and the summer is here. Summer teams, showcases, tournaments, and camps are just some of the many examples available where baseball players continue to do baseball related activities. In fact, there really is no offseason whatsoever for these young and developing arms – the players keep going, just the formats are different. This is one of the most notable ways that injuries can occur because there has been no time off or rest, to avoid overuse injuries that could lead to surgery such as Tommy John UCL reconstruction.

Take some time to let your arm rest and develop – it will pay big dividends for you in the future. See a sports medicine professional should you wish to discuss more about this.

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