STAMFORD, Conn. -- No matter your age or skill level, having a catch is one of the sure signs that spring is here and summer is right around the corner. However, showing off your fastball after months of inactivity can wreak havoc on little-used ligaments. Dr. Andrew Pearle, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery shares an example of coming out of the gate throwing and the problems it brings.
"A close friend called me during a trip to spring training," said Dr. Pearle "I’m so excited to live baseball for a week in Florida," said his friend. "I even got out my glove today, and threw with my son for an hour showed him my old fastball and slider," he said. "Knowing my friend had not thrown seriously since high school 20 years earlier, I asked him how his arm felt," said Dr. Pearle. "A bit sore," was his response, "but I’m sure it’ll be fine tomorrow" he reassured. “I’ll see you in my office in a week,” said Dr. Pearle, knowing just how delicate shoulders can be.
Throwing a baseball puts stress on the shoulder and requires an explosive and coordinated type of shoulder muscle activation way beyond our normal daily activities. Professional pitchers begin preparing their shoulders for the grueling season months before spring training. They perform the “Thrower’s 10″ exercises to stretch and strengthen the rotator cuff and scapular muscles. Initially, they play catch up to 40-50 yards apart for 10 minutes a day, three times a week while gradually stretching out their “long toss” to improve form.
Most of us don’t have to face Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. However, the “Thrower’s 10″ shoulder exercises and a progressive throwing program are helpful tips for anyone playing recreational baseball or softball to stay on the field and steer clear of the doctor's office.
Eventually, Dr. Pearle's friend developed shoulder pain at night and pain when he lifted his arm above his head. "I saw him in my office the next week; he developed inflammation around his rotator cuff,” said Dr. Pearle. "His shoulder will improve in a month or two with strengthening exercises and rest, but next time he'll know to toss before you throw."
Dr. Andrew Pearle is orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and is a team physician for the New York Mets and coordinates care for the minor league affiliates including the Brooklyn Cyclones. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Stamford and the hospital’s main campus in New York.