Baseball and softball travel summer seasons are starting to come towards the final countdowns and the innings have taken a toll on an overhead athlete’s body. Shoulder tightness is a common by-product of all the throwing in the field and pitching in practice, warm-ups, and games. If you are planning on playing a fall season, you need to absolutely take care of your throwing shoulder. Compensations are so common to avoid experiencing pain in the joint, but they always result in pain elsewhere – the elbow, the bicep, the scapula, the neck, the back.
Ideally, you should start with your balance. If your body isn’t balanced throughout the throwing motion (both overhand or underhand), you place the power part of the motion on smaller muscles that are not designed to take the force. Essentially, a lack of overall balance typically brings the lower half of your body through the motion first instead of together with the upper half of the body. With this flaw, the lower half of the body (with the larger, stronger muscles) commits before the motion is finished and leaks all the power it could produce. The power then transfers up and through the thoracic spine, shoulder, and arm, which are not designed to handle the stress.
If you are already pressed for time with a demanding schedule, you’ll have to multi-task. Incorporate balance work into your regular warm-ups to set a better foundation. Overhead athletes tend to have an “impingement” of the shoulder joint at some point in their careers. This means the muscles on the back (the shoulder blade/thoracic spine) are underdeveloped and allowing the pectorals/bicep to pull the joint forward, thus clamping down on the tendon that slides through the joint. Ever notice pain radiating from the shoulder down the top of the bicep towards the shoulder? That’s inflammation of the tendon’s sheath from trying to slide through a joint that is entirely too narrow.
Top 3 stretches to do to really open up the joint for relief:
- Sleeper stretch
- Door stretch
- Thumb up/thumb down
Top 3 strength exercises to work on shifting the muscle strength:
- Low row
- Goal post raises
*With any strength exercise for the shoulder, squeeze the shoulder blades together before completing the rep.
And get the knots out with a lacrosse ball/baseball/tennis ball in the shoulder muscle complex. You may never actually get your shoulder to be equally loosened up to your non-dominant shoulder, but you can definitely get it to function optimally and prevent repetitive stress injuries. Take the time to maintain yourself!