Offseason throwing suggestions for pitchers

With autumn in full swing a few things are becoming evident—days are getting shorter, temperatures are getting colder, and the pageantry and tradition of the World Series is complete.

Congrats to the Boston Red Sox and their fans on being on top of the baseball world. But with the completion of the Fall Classic comes the realization that we will not see baseball until next spring. The baseball and softball off-season is here, whether we like it or not. For most youth players this means taking a break from baseball, playing other sports, training to get ready for next season, or a combination of the above. Many players and parents are faced with the question of how to recover from last season and prepare for next season.

The main area to address is throwing and pitching. All players should stop throwing and take at least 2 months off. Preferably, 3 to 4 months of no throwing is recommended by many experts including Dr. James Andrews. If you are a pitcher, you absolutely should not pitch or throw from a mound for 3 to 4 months and you need at least 2 months of no throwing. As throwing a baseball is an unnatural motion, throwing year round does not allow your shoulder and elbow to recover. Furthermore, it increases muscle imbalance making future injuries more likely.

Many pitchers continue to work with their coaches in the winter by throwing bullpens and possibly even throwing to hitters. This along with pitching in Showcases or other special games in November and December is detrimental to the health of your arm. It often leads to overuse injuries, many of which do not become apparent until the following baseball season.

There is a common misconception that professional baseball pitchers throw and pitch year round.  Professional pitchers usually take to 3 to 4 months off from throwing. When the baseball season ends (in September or October) pitchers and catchers stop throwing. They generally resume long tossing in early or mid-December and throwing bullpens again about 6-8 weeks later (February). Their off-season is spent on recover initially, than correcting muscle imbalance by addressing movement dysfunction. They look to build strength by strengthening their scapula muscles, glutes, and core; not by performing pull-ups, bench press, and heavy squats (which are usually done incorrectly).

Long tossing for 6-8 weeks prior to throwing your first bullpen is essential as it builds needed arm strength and allows pitchers to address mechanics and assure that they are correct. Throwing bullpens too early in the long toss program is a recipe for arm injuries. (I will post a suggested throwing program in December.)

So if you play baseball or softball, hold off from throwing for a few months (except the occasional snowball). Take the opportunity to enjoy the colder temperatures, play another sport, and begin training properly for next season.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.