Last week I talked about a few different recovery methods that are useful in-season for preventing injury and performing at your best, and this week I want to continue on that topic and give my thoughts on a couple of other methods that I didn’t cover last week. No recovery routine, no matter how intricate or well thought out, can completely eliminate injury risk, and it is indeed possible to have an injury even if you’re “doing everything right” from a recovery, strength, mobility, etc. standpoint. I’ll go into this in more detail at the end of this post, but unfortunately I had an elbow injury this week that kept me out of our series against Pomona-Pitzer this past weekend. It wasn’t a huge injury (i.e., I don’t need Tommy John or anything), but it was enough to the point where I couldn’t throw a ball over about 80 mph without pain on Saturday, which was actually a pretty big improvement from Wednesday when my arm felt the worst. I wouldn’t say my recovery, mobility, etc. routines are perfect by any means, but I will say that they are well thought out and likely a lot more extensive than the average college athlete’s (to the point where I feel comfortable sharing and talking about them publicly on this website as an example for others to follow).
With all of this being said, spending time on recovery is still incredibly important, as even though you can never eliminate the possibility of injury completely, you can still minimize the risk quite a bit if you take recovery seriously. With this in mind, let’s look at a few other recovery methods that you can incorporate into your everyday routine, in addition to those mentioned in the first post:
When I say post-throwing work, I mean having some kind of arm care routine that you go through immediately after you throw (or as soon as possible after). For guys that are familiar with it, I’m a big fan of Driveline’s post-throwing recovery routine, which includes PlyoCare rebounders, J-band work, waiter walks, shoulder tube exercises, and more. All of this post-throwing recovery work is designed to promote blood flow to the muscle groups used during throwing (especially the shoulder) as well as reinforce good movement patterns and train force acceptance (in some exercises more than others). Whether you like to use Driveline’s post-throwing drills or not, I consider post-throwing work to be a very important aspect of recovery, as it helps kick start the rebuilding of tissues that may have been broken down during a high intensity throwing day. If you don’t have some kind of post-throwing routine in place and are finding it difficult to recover in between throwing sessions, you should definitely consider adding one in.
While mobility work could honestly be it’s own category of training separate from recovery (and indeed it could be in a future blog post), having a solid mobility routine in place is all but essential to staying healthy, and it only becomes more important the harder that you throw. It can be difficult to know exactly what your mobility limitations are without getting some kind of an assessment, and it’s probably ideal to have a certified PT run you through this. While I was at Driveline this past summer, I had weekly assessments done by their in-house PT Terry Phillips, as well as an intro and exit assessment done by their strength staff. They then prescribed me with daily mobility exercises to do based on the mobility limitations I had in the assessment(s). This is the ideal scenario, but if you aren’t able to get assessed this often or get custom programs to target your needs, there are still resources available, such as Tread Athletics’ mobility YouTube playlist, which has a lot of great general exercises to get started with. Tread also has a great YouTube video about why mobility is so important, featuring Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, who demonstrates how elite mobility can lead to elite velocities.
Miscellaneous recovery methods
There are a lot of other “supplementary” recovery options in addition to the others I’ve already mentioned. While all the extra recovery work in the world won’t help you if you get 5 hours of sleep a night and eat 2000 calories a day, for guys that have the rest of their routines locked down these additional options can be very helpful. One such option that I like is the Marc Pro, which I use after I complete my daily post-throwing routine. The Marc Pro unit generates a local “heartbeat” in the area you use it on via electric stimulus, and helps increase blood flow to the muscles that need it. These are normally pretty expensive (around $700), but I got mine for about half price used on Facebook marketplace, and this is a good route to go if $700 is too expensive (eBay is another good option as well).
Other “extra” recovery options include cupping, the Graston technique, and other manual therapy options. By breaking down knots and tight areas, these therapy techniques can help your muscles “bounce back” from a heavy day of throwing or training. Having used both cupping and the Graston technique in the past, I can confidently say that both are useful in speeding up recovery timelines. The last recovery method I’ll mention is making sure you are living a lifestyle that has as little mental stress as possible. Some of you might read this and say it’s eyewash, and indeed it might be to a certain degree, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have as few unnecessary commitments outside of training if possible, so that you can focus all of your efforts to becoming the best player you can be. On a related note, it’s also important to make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who support you and your training goals, rather than try and discourage and distract you from them.
These are all aspects that I try to incorporate into my recovery routine, and even though I’ve been staying on top of all of these to the best of my ability, I still ended up getting hurt last week. Thankfully, I don’t think it will be a serious or long-term issue, and not only has my elbow been feeling better every day, but I think I’ve more or less nailed down the root cause of the issue mechanically (knock on wood). I talked a bit in a previous blog post about pushing vs. pulling the ball into release, and I do think that the issue I was having is related, although with an additional wrinkle. I was unable to get into a position to “pull” the ball because I wasn’t creating enough of a stretch between my hips and shoulders, and my torso was almost open at stride foot contact (Ben Brewster talks about this in the same blog post I mentioned a couple weeks ago). Thus, I was more or less forced to push the ball towards home plate, which is a plausible mechanical explanation as to why my elbow was hurting. Obviously, there could be other issues at play, but based on the fact that I’ve been staying on top of my mobility work, strength work, etc. I think it’s pretty likely that this mechanical bug is the main cause of the issue. Here’s a video from last Tuesday, right as I was starting to feel it:
It’s not terrible, but my hip/shoulder sequencing could be improved a bit here. I’ve still been able to throw over the course of the past few days (just not at high intensities), and actively cueing this separation move during roll-ins has felt amazing, so I think I’m on the right track (again, knock on wood). Big thanks to Eric Jagers from Driveline for helping me identify this bug! Obviously, I don’t have any stats or video from this weekend like I thought I would, but I’d be pretty surprised if I’m not game-ready by our trip to Tuscon, AZ next weekend (knock on wood for the third time), if not earlier, especially based on how roll-ins have been feeling.