Throwing is a component of many sports, however the focus here is on the over-hand pitcher. The act of throwing is a "whipping" maneuver where acceleration generated in torso and lower body is released through the arm and eventually to the ball. In the professional pitcher, at least half of the force production is due to the lower body's contribution which therefore decreases the demands on the shoulder. This point is often lost by more amateur pitchers or throwers who try to throw "from the shoulder."
The muscles of the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, and the teres minor. These muscles function during the throwing motion as stabilizers more than “movers”. The rotator cuff muscles are designed to add stability to the shoulder even though it is moving rather violently. Shoulder injuries often occur when the rotator cuff muscles become the muscles that are trying to generate all the force for throwing/ pitching vs. adding stability to the shoulder (specifically the glenohumeral joint) so the arm can act as a “whip”.
There are ways to train that will help decrease the likelihood of shoulder injuries however some pitchers are more susceptible to these injuries than others. To find out if your pitcher is at risk of a throwing injury, and to prevent it before it happens please contact In Motion Spine and Joint Center or a health care provider that is trained in sports pre-hab, rehab, and treatment. Some tips on training the shoulder are mentioned below.
If you would like more information on this topic or on shoulder injury prevention screens for throwing athletes (overhand or windmill), please contact In Motion Spine and Joint Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (615) 302-4747.
Training and Rehabilitation Suggestions
Shoulder muscles must be trained both eccentrically and concentrically.
Emphasis should be placed on endurance of the rotator cuff muscles.
Training of the scapular stabilizers is essential for providing stability for the moving scapular (shoulder blade) platform.
Stretching of the posterior capsule and musculature may help prevent shoulder impingement.
An emphasis on trunk rotational training is paramount for decreasing the demands on the shoulder.