5 Arm-Care tips from the AMP Recovery Lab
By: Mike Stella, MTA, ATC, PES, CES
Well, it has been a very productive winter at Athletic Movement Protocol. Many of our Baseball athletes are winding down their off-season training and beginning their in-season phases. I thought this would be as good a time as any to write another article, this time on 5 arm care tips to help get you through the spring and summer. Some may come as a surprise, others may not, but understanding some basic concepts can do wonders for your longevity in-season.
Remember to Warm-Up: This may be one of those obvious ones but it is the first and arguably the most important. It is often the step that gets overlooked, rushed through, or ignored altogether, with some major consequences. Warming-up refers to the process of raising your body temperature prior to physical activity. When your body temperature rises, your soft tissues become more elastic, which for throwing athletes can aid in performance, but also helps to reduce the risk of injury. A great way to tell if you’re warmed up enough is simple…are you sweating? A good warm up may include a combination of dynamic movements, movement pattern preparation, band work, corrective exercises, etc. Try using one of these warm up routines from AMP Founder and Performance Coach, TJ Lopez found here.
To Stretch or Not to Stretch….: Now hold on a minute. You may be telling yourself that stretching out your entire body is a good pre-game plan to prevent injuries and improve performance, right? Well, not necessarily. Many research studies have shown that long duration stretching actually diminishes athletic output during competition! Now this does not mean all stretching is bad! This simply means that there is a time and a place for everything. If you are one of those athletes who is working on addressing mobility concerns, and long duration stretching is part of that plan, then great, but save that routine for training, rehab, and practice. Pre-game warm-ups is not the time to stretch out all the elastic potential energy stored in your muscles! Instead, focus on more dynamic type stretches and limit long holds at end range. Be especially weary when performing rotator cuff stretches as well. These particular stretches, like the sleeper stretch are very popular in the coaching world, but in many cases, guys are just creating more instability in their arms, and may be doing more harm than good. If you aren’t sure when and what to stretch, then consult a professional. This time of year at AMP we are busy teaching guys good movement preparation routines to help them get ready for game time.
Listen to your body: In the game and not feeling right? Something feeling tight, sore and out of whack? Well don’t ignore it man! In my career as an athletic trainer, I’ve seen far too many guys trying to work through symptoms that are essentially their bodies warning signs that an injury is pending. All athletes push themselves harder at game time, and it is very common that athletes will ignore pain and discomfort during the game when they wouldn’t otherwise. In the baseball world, everyone is talking about the rising incidence of Tommy John surgeries and elbow injuries. How do we prevent these injuries from happening? That’s a difficult question for sure and the answer would range widely depending on who you talk to. I think one of the ways we can stem the tide is simply by educating our athletes. Talk to that guy you know whose had Tommy John and ask him how is arm was feeling before the injury occurred. I’m not a betting man but I’d be willing to wager that in the pitches/throws prior to that dreaded “pop,” his arm wasn’t feeling all too hot. I’ve had guys tell me they felt a range of different symptoms before they got hurt. The most common being:
Hip/Low back pain/tightness
Most athletes with any of these symptoms would shut it down if it were practice or an off-season workout. Fact is, your body will always try to protect itself from an injury, and much of that forearm and bicep tightness can be attributed to your body trying to create stability when faced with pending failure. So don’t ignore it! As an athlete, you have to be your own advocate, if you aren’t feeling hot, then let your coach and athletic trainer know. It’s easier to replace you for a few innings than for the rest of the season…
Save the Ice for the water cooler: Wait what?! No ICE??? That’s right…NO ICE! Icing has been a mainstay in athletic training rooms for the better part of half a century. There are also countless former Pro players that swear that icing saved their arms. With so much tradition behind it, why shouldn’t we ice? Well for one, as much tradition as there is doesn’t make up for the fact that there is very little scientific evidence to support it. What’s the rationale for icing anyway? Well, the major proponents would say that it helps to reduce inflammation and prevent further cell damage and death from occurring. Not to mention that it feels good right? The latter aside, reducing inflammation isn’t necessarily the best course of action. Inflammation is a normal part of the healing process, in fact its step 1, and it is essential for the proper removal and isolation of damaged tissue and cellular debris. Icing, simply put, slows down this process that needs to occur for normal healing!!! The faster your body can deal with the inflammatory phase of healing, the sooner it can move on to repair mode, so stop slamming on the brakes with those ice packs! Same goes for those NSAID pain relievers…They shut down the inflammatory process from a systemic level, and are just as guilty for holding back your healing abilities. Like with anything else, Ice and NSAIDS have their time and place, but prevention is definitely not one of them. A good alternative are some active recovery modalities, specifically the Marc Pro and the Normatec MVP, all of which I will outline in my next article on recovery tactics.
Give your Soft-Tissues some love: OK this one is probably no surprise coming from me. Anyone who knows me will say that I am a soft-tissue junkie. Manual therapies have been a staple for me over the past 10 years and I have had far better results with this modality than by any others combined in both prevention and treatment of athletic injuries. Ice and stim IS NOT an effective prevention, recovery, or treatment method…period. One of the best in-season tactics you can utilize is the expertise of a sports medicine professional. ATCs, PTs, and Chiros are a great place to start, but you need someone with an affinity for manual therapies. In the AMP Recovery Lab, we utilize Graston Technique, Active Release Therapy, and PRI Techniques (Postural Restoration Institute). The best part about these certifications is that they come with directories, so start by browsing the pros in your area who are listed on these sites. If you live in the Long Island area, then come check out how the AMP Recovery Lab can change your game! Regular manual therapy work can do wonders for longevity in-season and for helping to prevent injuries. For more info, check out my article on Soft tissue Therapy and Sustained Performance!