There’s a question roaming around our facility that naturally comes up this time of year.
SHOULD PITCHERS THROW YEAR ROUND?
Before we answer that, let’s define a couple terms (Throwing v Pitching). Throwing involves the development of arm strength, proper arm action, body mechanics, long toss, ballistic training, etc. Pitching involves throwing off a mound. What we aim to accomplish out of this article is to create a clear picture of what a pitcher should be doing at different times throughout the year. We feel the need to write this article due to the increasing number of youth and high school pitchers who are pitching year round.
After spending time considering our own playing experience at the Div. I and Professional Level, along with hours of research from some of the top throwing minds in the country we have an answer:
PITCHERS SHOULD NOT PITCH YEAR ROUND!
We do believe that a pitcher should be throwing throughout the majority of the year, however with different intent and focuses at different times. Here’s a quick example of why pitchers need to take time off.
Throughout a season, a pitcher’s arm external rotation will increase naturally. As the rotation increases, the rotator cuff takes on more stress. The posterior chain (back muscles) work less and start to lock up, applying most of the work to the rotator cuff. Taking time off after a season to regain your scapular muscle stregth and rotator cuff healing is required to keep a healthy arm for the upcoming off season and years to come. – Eric Cressey Performance
Here are some other points of why pitchers should take time off:
- They need to allow for any undetected low- grade injuries to heal. Throughout a season there will be injuries, some of them are right up front and some of them are the little tweaks that could add up to something much more if not rested properly. Taking time off will allow any of those tweaks and minor injuries to pass and get better rather than taking them into the off season where you should be increasing the workload.
- MLB pitchers take 1- 2 months off of throwing completely after a season. Pitchers at that level are a lot stronger and mechanically developed and they still need their rest because of the stress they put on their arms. Now, take a kid who is much more physically immature at 15-16 years old throwing 75-78 compared to a major leaguer throwing 90-92. The younger kid will endure far more damage on every throw then the MLB pitcher because the kid has not fully developed yet. Now, why would that younger kid throw and pitch all year round if the stress on his arm is more than the MLB pitcher? – Driveline Baseball
- Pitching year round will wear you out physically for the most part, but it also will affect you mentally as well. Giving yourself some time off of throwing and pitching allows you to regain mental focus, keeps you fresh, and most importantly will allow you to not get worn out and continue loving the game.
- They need to build a foundation. One of the most important parts of being a healthy pitcher is having a strong foundation heading into the upcoming season. When you build a house and you don’t build the foundation up strong, that house will collapse and not last very long. Same goes with pitching. During the foundation period, pitchers should be focusing on arm strength, developing proper arm action, increasing body control, going through a long toss program, ballistic training, etc.
So here’s the next question we normally get once we’ve established that pitchers should take time off.
HOW LONG SHOULD A PITCHER TAKE OFF AND WHEN?
To help explain our answer, please refer to the timelines below. Disclaimer, the timelines below are generic examples that we created to explain what a pitcher should be doing throughout the year. Keep in mind each pitcher’s needs and experience are different and can affect the timelines below.
Key Terms: T = Throwing Development, P = Pitching Development
As you can see, high school pitchers have a different timeline than youth pitchers. We recommend all high school pitchers take at minimum, 1 month off of total throwing and 4 months off of pitching, whereas youth pitchers should be getting 1.5-2 months off of total throwing and 4 months off of pitching. In a nut shell, we believe that pitchers need to take some time off of throwing (1-2 months depending on age) and pitching (4 months) following spring and summer ball. Following the initial 1-2 month period of rest, the most important part is making sure to progressively build the foundation of the arm through throwing development, NOT JUMP RIGHT ON A MOUND!
What’s the expected result in better understanding and following a proper pitching timeline? A healthier arm that properly develops at the right time and will stay stronger through the course of a season.