Baseball performance rehab: What you need to know

DJ Edwards focuses on baseball performance rehab with an athlete.

Rehabbing a thrower is not easy. 

Having an understanding of the human body is different than knowing what is happening during the throwing motion. 

The throwing motion is complex, but in this day and age, there is an ample amount of information available on how to better it. However, there seems to be a gap in some of the baseball medical community and the knowledge of the throwing motion. 

As a whole, we must be better to create a greater return to throw protocols and provide more value for players.

First, we must realize that we do not train textbooks, we train over-hand throwers which are ATHLETES.

We can not continue to treat players like delicate flowers. It’s time to push the needle of development. 

On the other hand, a common issue we see in the industry is the athlete wants to put the cart before the horse and jump right into absolute strength training without expressing quality movement or having a strong foundation that can absorb or produce force. 

Baseball performance rehab timeline

It’s important to establish a timeline with these types of athletes so we can minimize the risk of injury. 

Athletes are different when it comes to baseball performance rehab.

We must realize there is no way to prevent injury but we can reduce the risk of injury. 

Throwing and lifting are occupational hazards in the sport of baseball. We must bridge the gap between performance and rehab.

Every time we start to enter performance rehab with an athlete, we need to realize that this is a case-by-case scenario.

No two athletes are the same and no two injuries are the exact same. 

If you look at most shoulder rehab protocols, the majority of the exercises are the same. This is a problem.

There have been very well-respected doctors and physical therapists who have created generic throwing programs and or lifting programs and hand it over to an athlete with no mention of their unique body. 

Keep in mind, there is a difference between a UCL tear and a rotator cuff injury. There is a difference between a labrum issue and an “impingement.”

Not all throwers’ mechanics are the same and neither are their injuries. So, why rehab them like they are? 

Some PTs and surgeons still advise throwers not to lift until they begin throwing. This is completely backward for today’s world of baseball performance rehab. 

For example, not knowing the importance of the athlete needing to have the ability to perform multiple chin-ups before returning to throw is inexcusable in my opinion.

We need to know all of the “whys, how’s and what’s” in the rehab process. 

An athlete should express integrity of the elbow joint that can withstand force absorption and force production – which happens when you perform a chin-up and throw a baseball. 

Some “why’s, how’s, and what’s” a PT or coach should be asking as they rehab an athlete:

  • Why are we programming this exercise?
  • What does the scapulohumeral rhythm look like?
  • Why did the athlete get injured?
  • How is the scap working along the thorax?
  • Why does the athlete move the way he does?

There is a massive need for coaches who have an understanding of the demands of throwing and also understand the human body. 

Strength professionals must be able to prescribe lifts to athletes that are general prerequisites to returning to throw, and also know the athlete and their issues better than they know themselves. 

The pre-requisites are in no way absolutes; however, strength coaches must know which lifts are needed and what muscles are recruited during the lifts prescribed. 

Additionally, strength coaches need to make sure the lifts are biasing the need of the athlete at hand and are in sequence with the rehab protocols set out by the physical therapist or team doctors. 

Regressing and progressing lifts during rehab

It’s important to keep in mind, there will always be setbacks through the process.

If a strength coach does not understand a player’s deficiencies and why he/she was injured in the first place, they won’t have the ability to truly rehab the thrower.  

Most importantly, the strength coach must realize that every athlete is different and has their own deficiencies.

Bridging the gap between throwing, performance and rehab is vital to allow for a proper return to the field. 

Strength coaches, as a whole, must be better at understanding what athletes need and the demands of the unique sport of baseball. 

Collectively, we can all play a big role in the direction of baseball rehab and performance.

Looking for more information on how to take care of a thrower’s arm? Read this blog post written by DJ Edwards.