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Arm Care Starts with the Scaps

The two most commonly reported areas of pain in baseball players are the shoulder and elbow.

However, the area in pain may not actually be causing the pain itself.

The body is a chain and weakness in one link of that chain can cause pain in another area. This is certainly the case when it comes to arm pain. Often when pain is felt in the arm it is due to a lack of mobility elsewhere in the body. That “elsewhere” is often from the scapulothoracic joint.

In order to understand the importance of the scapulothoracic joint, which is comprised of the scapula (shoulder blade) and the rib cage, we have to appreciate the functional. The shoulder joint is made up of the head of the humerus and the glenoid cavity of the scapula. The humeral head sits right on top of the glenoid cavity like a golf ball on a tee. As the shoulder joint goes through various motions, the scapula has to move with it. It does this by gliding on top of the rib cage. For every two degrees that the shoulder moves, the scapula should move one degree (2:1 ratio).

Here’s a great video showing the anatomy of this movement:

If the scapula is unable to move close to a 2:1 ratio with the shoulder, then we are going to be limited with how far we can move our arm. This limit, when trying to throw a baseball, is problematic, as the thrower will place undue pressure on the shoulder and elbow in an attempt to reach the proper range of motion.

Scapula Exercises for Baseball Pitchers

As you can see, it’s pretty important to not just focus on the arm, but also the scapula.  Below are my four favorite correctional exercises to develop scapulothoracic movement.

Side Lying Half Moon Thoracic Stretch

In addition to mobilizing the thoracic spine, the lying half moon stretch is exceptional at promoting scapulothoracic range of motion.

Have the athlete flex their top knee at 90° and sit it on top of either a medball or a foam roller. This will keep their spine aligned properly. The athlete should try to drag their fingers along the ground as they progress throughout the motion. It is important to note that athletes who lack ST mobility will not be able to get their hand all the way to the ground initially.

As the athlete moves their arm through the motion the scapula will go through all of its movement patterns.

 

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion

For baseball players it is critical that the scapula is able to elevate and upwardly rotate as the arm extends forward towards ball release. This drill is an example of how an assessment test can also be used as a corrective exercise.

Have the athlete stand with their feet 4-6 inches away from the wall and cue them to keep their back completely flat against the wall. With the amount of lumber extension we see across the population this may be very challenging for some athletes. If the athletes cannot keep their lower back flat on the wall, instruct them to bend their knees and active their core.

Forearm Wall Slides

As the athlete slides their hands up the wall they are getting more elevation and upward rotation of the scapula; but as they pull their hands off of the wall, they’re going to retract the scapula and get some slight posterior tilt as well.

Make sure that athlete engages their core and doesn’t fall into lumbar extension as they bring their hands off of the wall as this should be an exclusively scapulothoracic movement.

Prone 1-Arm Trap Raise

The last exercise in my scapulothoracic joint mobilization series is very similar to the classic Blackburn’s exercises.

I prefer to have athletes do these exercises unilaterally and on a table because when done bilaterally and on the floor we often see more spine movement than actual ST movement. This is another good exercise for developing posterior tilt of the scapula by allowing the lower trap to get involved.

The beautiful thing about all of these exercises is that they require very little to no equipment at all. This means that athletes can do these exercises in the gym, on the field, or at home.

Give these scapular exercises for baseball pitchers a try and keep that arm healthy this season!

 

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EBP Reinold Throwers Arm Care ProgramOur mission at EBP is to provide the best and most trustworthy information.  That’s why we now are offering Mike Reinold’s recommended arm care protocol for absolutely FREE.  A proper arm care program should be one of the foundations of injury prevention and performance enhancement programs.  The EBP Arm Care program is the perfect program to set the foundation for success that EVERY baseball player should perform.