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Athletes and Sports: Massage Therapy and the Young Athlete | Baseball Pitchers

Massage therapy is an undeniable tool in the fight to keep young athletes healthy and to sustain longevity in the sport they play. What is amazing to me is that we invest so much time and energy in getting our kids involved in sports but we fail to see the need in maintaining musculoskeletal health that will ultimately lead to continued success.

In this installment regarding athletes and massage & bodywork, specific to the youth, which I feel is commonly overlooked, I would like to discuss Pitchers and the act of throwing the ball at high velocity. As far as pitcher is concerned I like to take a two-step approach as there are two things to a pitcher that matter the most. The first thing is longevity and maintaining a healthy arm and shoulder and the second is increasing and maintaining velocity. I am using the term velocity here a little loosely as I understand that a pitcher does not only throw the fastball but the demand on the arm is the same regardless of velocity in terms of type of pitch.

Here is some food for thought: The overhead throwing motion is a coordinated effort of muscle units from the entire body, culminating with explosive motion of the upper extremity.1 The pitching motion consists of 6 phases: windup, early cocking/stride, late cocking, acceleration, deceleration, and follow-through. These phases are intricately coupled, resulting in efficient generation and transfer of energy from the body into the arm and, ultimately, the hand and ball. Each segment starts as the adjacent proximal segment reaches top speed, culminating with top speed of the most distal segment.1 The maximum shoulder internal rotation velocity during throwing may reach 7500 to 7700 degrees per second.1 This rapid motion delivers the arm from as much as 175° of external rotation to 100° of internal rotation (at ball release) in only 42 to 58 milliseconds.1 The pelvis achieves maximum rotational velocities of 400 to 700 degrees per second.1 These are only a few stats that illustrate the demand that is placed on the body and the musculature involved in throwing at high velocity.

Healthy Arm:

The demand on the musculature of the arm and shoulder is incredible for a pitcher as the act of throwing the ball at those speeds is violent and is repeated many times over many years. An intricate relationship between the dynamic stabilizers (rotator cuff, pectoralis major, and latissimus dorsi) and static stabilizers is required to simultaneously supply the range of motion, force, and stability of the shoulder joint. This integrated effort relies on the trapezius, rhomboids, levator scapulae, and serratus anterior muscles for stabilization, positioning, and synchronous scapular motion. The goal here is to make sure that the muscles are kept healthy and free to move as a healthy muscle will recover faster and be able to handle more repetitions as well as allow for the synchronous mobility. What I do in this regard is work those specific muscles that are involved, releasing the stored tension allowing the muscle to contract and release as it should as well as providing a “flushing” of the tissue, moving out toxins and waste and bringing in vital nutrients allowing for the muscle to heal rapidly. This approach will reduce the amount of micro tears and tissue damage over time.

San Clement Massage, Physical Therapy, GYROTONIC®


In terms of velocity, maximum velocity is achieved through a dymanic process that invloves the entire body beginning at the foot and concluding at the hand. This is called a Kinetic Chain and in order to achieve maximum velocity this "chain" cannot have any weak links. My approach here is addressing the body as a whole, everything is connected and relates, so having some dysfunction in your leg can directly affect your shoulder etc. Studies have shown that if there is a "weak link" in the kinetic chain, the shoulder will have to compensate 34% to achieve the same amount of velocity on the ball.1 This is crucial to not only maintain or gain velocity but also to the health and longevity of the arm. I specialize in what is called Soma Neuromuscular Integration which is an 11 session sequence that realigns the entire body allowing for all of the musculature to work as a unit creating optimal overall function. All aspects of the kinetic chain are addressed and released allowing for maximum performance.

How GYROTONIC® can help:

Including Gyrotonic in the recipe for maintaining musculoskeletal health and physical performance is an undeniable asset. The Gyrotonic method incorporates all movements of the body increasing strength and mobility through each joint allowing for rapid recovery and optimal range of motion. Addressing the body as an entire organism is the key, it does not make sense to only focus on one area when everything is intertwined and involved.

1. Shane T. Seroyer, MD, Shane J. Nho, MD, Bernard R. Bach, MD, Charles A. Bush-Joseph, MD, Gregory P. Nicholson, MD, and Anthony A. Romeo, MD. The Kinetic Chain in Overhand Pitching. Sports Health. 2010 Mar; 2(2): 135–146. doi: 10.1177/1941738110362656.

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