Winning Exercises for Softball and Baseball Players
By Dr. Molly Casey
Baseball is popular for this time of year, especially with the younger kids. As important as it is to keep our children moving for health and fitness, it’s also important to pay special attention to the amount and type of movement they’re participating in. In other words, it’s easy to go overboard and cause injury. Let’s begin with one of the most obvious injuries, the shoulder. Here are some safety tips for your kid, their shoulder and their game whether it’s baseball or softball!
There are three bones to the shoulder joint, the humerus (arm), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collar bone). It’s a ball and socket joint that allows multi-directional movement and rotation. It’s complex with a number of different small ligaments. It has a strong connective tissue capsule and relies on tendons and muscles to keep the joint stable. There are numerous muscles, but the most well-known are the four that comprise the rotator cuff -- supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.
Improper stretching, strengthening, technique, joint mobility, or nervous system function can contribute to shoulder injuries, especially in a throwing sport such as baseball.
Teach your child optimal stretching routines in two areas of life. First, in small segments during daily life and second, for a minimum of 15 minutes prior to any practice or game. The stretching prior to the practice/game properly warms up muscles by stimulating blood flow, activating muscle fibers, and lengthening tissue. This all contributes to optimal performance and injury prevention. The small segments of stretching in daily life encourage full and proper range of motion and continue to support the increased flexibility of tissue while off the field.
Some of the most basic stretches are still the best for the body. While there are plenty more for you to pick and choose from, below are some simple and easy stretches for the kids! And certainly any qualified coach will be leading your player through a routine themselves.
- Arm circles - Extend your arms out to the side. Make small circles forward, counting to 50. Repeat, making small circles to the back. Go forward again and make big circles, then backward making big circles.
- Across the chest arm stretch - Extend your right arm across your chest and use your left hand to gently stretch the right shoulder by pulling it forward. You’ll feel the stretch in the back of the right shoulder and scapula area. Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat on left.
The care of the shoulder joint and associated musculature between games is as important as pre-game stretching. Mainly it comes in the form of strengthening. While an overall strength routine for the body is important, special care should be focused on the shoulder. A few common and simple exercises that should be more thoroughly researched for proper performance and weight level -- side lying dumbbell external rotations, bear crawl, scap (short for scapular) wall slides, and band-assisted internal and external rotation exercises. Chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic can certainly advise on appropriate levels of strengthening specific for your child. Otherwise it’s advisable to check specifically with the coach or team trainer.
Why would a ballplayer see a chiropractor? And does it help their game?
The body’s communication system is called the nervous system. Your child is able to throw the ball, swing the bat, and run the bases because of this nervous system. If the communication system is not functioning at its optimal level, it’s logical to infer that the performance level will decrease at some level. That same communication system also controls the body’s ability to heal. Should an injury occur, the healing process itself may take longer and be less effective with a less than optimal functioning nervous system.
Chiropractic supports an optimally functioning nervous system through proper spinal joint alignment and movement. When joints are restricted or not moving through their full range of motion, they can impede the nervous system function.
Additionally, chiropractors can manipulate the extremity joints, such as the shoulder. Often when joints are used repetitively in activities such as throwing a baseball, athletes can lose some range of motion due to the stresses and technique. That range of motion can be restored through shoulder joint manipulation by a chiropractor.
So, yes, your ball player should see a chiropractor. And yes it certainly can help improve their performance and, should an injury occur, their healing.
Come see the chiropractors at The Joint to see if they can help you and your little one as you navigate this baseball season.
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