One common question I get asked from parents is “what are some basic exercises for my child to do while in-season to prevent shoulder injuries or Tommy John surgery.”
I love this question. It is like people are looking for the bear-minimum to avoid injuries. I can’t blame parents, I understand that they want something quick and easy for their children to perform, especially with their busy schedules.
First, I applaud the proactive parents who ask this question. For adolescents, a lot of them don’t realize how important it is to perform some sort of arm care program even during the season. If they only knew half of the training and arm care programs their idols in professional sports partake in, I think they would take the arm programs more seriously. Since they don’t always get a look or completely understand what their idols go through to maintain arm health, I believe it is on the parents and coaches to ensure the athletes are aware of the importance and are partaking in an arm care program during their season.
Before I answer the question on the best exercises to perform for in-season arm care, I start with this statement: The best prevention for in-season injuries comes from off-season training. Athletes should be going through an off-season training program that focuses on key strength, endurance, power, explosiveness, and mechanics that are specific to their sport. That, first and foremost, is the best way to prevent injuries from occurring in-season.
The off-season training can be left for another blog on another day.
Here are my 4 go-to exercises for baseball players to perform during their season:
1. Thoracic rotation: The throwing of a baseball requires a lot of rotation through the thoracic spine. If it gets stiff, this leads to a lot of rotation trying to occur through the low back (not wanted) or increased motion through the shoulder (also not wanted). Perform this exercise by getting on your hands and knees, put one hand behind your head and attempt to rotate maximally in both directions. 15-20 repetitions daily.
2.,Wall slides: It is important to maintain appropriate shoulder flexion in overhead athletes as the repetition of throwing tends to increase lat tightness and weakness in the low traps. To perform, place your forearms against a wall and slide them up as far as you can go, without shoulder shrugging. Keep contact with your forearm against the wall the whole time. 15-20 repetitions daily.
3. Self-massage on posterior shoulder: This will be important to prevent loss of shoulder internal rotation. Simply take a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, baseball, etc. and put it on the bottom part of your shoulder blade and pin it against a wall. With the arm that has the ball pinched between the wall and shoulder blade, cross your body and roll the ball around the area. 15-20 repetitions daily.
4. Quadruped scaption: This is ideal for working on endurance of the rotator cuff and of the scapula stabilizers. Perform in quadruped position. Lift one arm out at a 45 degree angle and hold for 2-3 seconds. Add weight as needed with light dumbbells, cans of soup, etc. Repeat 3 sets of 15-20 daily.
Remember, these are all basic exercises and are general. They are typically what I prescribe for my in-season athletes, with some variances based on individual needs. If you feel your athlete needs more structure to their in-season program, feel free to reach out to me and we can discuss setting up an individual program for your athlete.
Steven Alexander PT, DPT, Cert DN