When to begin an offseason throwing program

By Stephen Conca

Conca Sports

It’s that time of the baseball offseason we hear about blockbuster trades, free agency, and teams strategically putting the pieces together for the upcoming season…only  about 16 weeks away.

Every year at this time we also have new parents and players contact us with the same question:  When should I begin my offseason throwing program?

There are a wide array of opinions as to when to start throwing. Some say, January 1, December 15, after Thanksgiving…etc.

All too often the offseason throwing program revolves around a limited amount of time to get ready and not your own individual goals, physical development or other personal situations.  Not everyone should start the throwing program on the same day.

It’s our goal to always individualize every aspect of the throwing program.  In order to help you determine when you should start throwing you need to ask yourself two basic questions:

1.  Are you physically ready to start throwing again?

2.   What are your goals?

Obviously there are many other factors to consider but if you really get to the heart of these two questions you can have a much clearer vision about what you need to do.

But first, let’s back up just a bit.

One of the most important aspects to the start of the baseball offseason is your time off before throwing again.  Throwing a baseball is one of the most unnatural movements the human body can produce in sports.

It creates cumulative stress in vulnerable areas such as the shoulder, elbow and hips.  Furthermore, there have been numerous studies showing the more you pitch, the greater your chances of injury:  (Common sense, yes, but it can put things into perspective.)

1.   Pitching for greater than 8 months out of the year results in 5x as many injuries (Olsen, American Journal of Sports Medicine, 06)

2.   Pitching greater than 100 innings in 1 year results in 3x as many injuries (Fleising American Journal of Sports Medicine, 11)

3.   Pitching in showcases and travel leagues significantly correlated to increased injuries (Register-Mahlick, Journal of Athletic Training, 12, Olsen AJSM, 06)

Take home message.  If you are a pitcher, threw more then 100 innings and pitched deep into summer, you should take the ball out of your hand for at least 4 months.

What’s the most important part of your offseason?  Taking care of your body and to get it ready to throw again.  Many players finish the summer and fall season tight sore and weak.  They might not have had an “injury” during the season, but the underlying micro-trauma is very real.

Many guys, with all good intensions, will immediately hit the weight room.  While a well thought out strength and conditioning program can have a huge impact, manual therapy, deep tissue work and arm care programs prior to initiating a strength program are even more important.

Here’s how your thought process should look:

Take care of your body, work on imbalances (ex: restore shoulder and hip internal rotation), address any lingering issues of tightness or soreness >>> then get the body to begin throwing.

What Are Your Goals?

After you get your body prepared it’s time to analyze your goals for the upcoming season.  There’s an obviously big difference in preparation from little league, high school, college and pro ball.

For instance minor league camp is shorter then big league camp, so you better be ready to go on day 1.  Their performance could impact a spot on a big league roster. That might mean starting a month earlier then everyone else.

The middle and high school athletes may spend part of the winter working with a pitching coach.

Late winter work with a pitching is great but just be careful to avoid overuse.

High school games come fast up here in the north east with only a few weeks of practice.

There’s one common thread to all these different levels of throwing that need to be addressed before you start your mound work.

Every throwing program needs to incorporate a long toss component.

To continue reading on learning when to begin your off-season throwing program please go to www.ConcaSportAndFitness.com/

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