Similar to the controversy surrounding the use and over use of youth pitchers, the debate of whether pitchers should use ice after a start rages on in some circles. Many pitchers (including myself) just iced because it’s what we are supposed to do. Many pitchers ice because they are afraid not to. Some truly believe in the benefits and some will never know pitching without it.
On the other hand, many pitchers do not ice after starts. Some pitchers don’t ice because they do not have access to it, some don’t like the way it makes their arms feel, and some don’t do it simply because they are lazy.
I will preface this by saying that I am not a doctor, athletic trainer, or physical therapist. The findings I am reporting in this article are simply based on the research of others and are based on my reading and experiences as a player and a coach.
It is important to note that if the player has an acute injury to his arm such as getting hit by the baseball, a ligament sprain or muscle pull, they should be highly encouraged to ice. It is true that ice may be more effective for acute injuries such as those, and it may not be as effective for eccentric injuries (repetitive deceleration) such as throwing a large number of pitches. Understand that the type of injury that occurs after after pitching is a delayed onset muscle soreness, which is essentially micro-tears of the muscle. This type of soreness usually peaks 24-48 hours after use and is characterized by stiffness of the muscle and joint. This type of soreness after pitching is totally normal.
Since ice causes constriction and stiffness of the muscles and joints by constricting blood flow, it may not be the best modality to use after pitching. There are several other options a pitcher has to decrease the amount of time that he is sore after and extended outing.
1.) Proper warm-up prior to throwing (in order)
a.) Start with an activity that will get the heart rate up, light jogging or other baseball activity
b.) Dynamic stretching (most done at 10-20 yards)
i.) High Knees
ii.) Butt Kicks
iv.) Lunge Twists
v.) Skip Series
vi.) Side shuffles
vii.) Jog to sprint series
c.) Core activation and warmup
i.) Core twists
ii.) Twisting yoga poses (Check out your baseball yoga program here)
iii.) Med-Ball exercises
d.) Arm tubing
i.) Internal rotation
ii.) External rotation
iii.) Scap Squeeze
iv.) Iron Cross
2.) Refuel your body
a.) Eat something high in carbs and protein within 30 minutes of pitching
b.) Eat a balanced meal within 2 hours of pitching
3.) Next day stretching
a.) Shoulder girdle stretches prior to any activity
b.) Shoulder tubing prior to any activity
4.) Monitor post pitching practice and game activity
a.) Give your two-way players lighter throwing work loads in the two days after pitching
b.) Give a day off or game off if possible
c.) Try to avoid allowing pitchers to catch on a regular basis
Research shows that there are more (and possibly better) ways to recover from a start than to ice. Encourage pitchers to experiment with their post throwing routines (including ice) to find the one that works the best for them.
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Yeager, D.W. (2011). An alternative to ice: A more comprehensive method to post pitching recovery. Retrieved from www.baseballstrengthcoaching.com.
ASMI position statement on youth pitching. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.asmi.org/asmiweb/position_statement.htm.
Lyman S, Fleisig GS, Andrews JR, Osinski ED (2002). Effect of pitch type, pitch count, and pitching mechanics on risk of elbow and shoulder pain in youth baseball pitchers. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 30, 463-468.