This post is prepared by West 4th Physiotherapy associate Peter Francis.
Performing any activity repetitively can produce a pattern of tightness and
weakness based on the direction of movements and muscles that are active at
the joints being moved. Simply put, if you do any activity repetitively
and long enough without maintenance you are bound to develop predictable joint ranges of motion. Having a full joint range of motion is important in sport and activity because we need adequate movement to produce force through muscles and then decelerate (slow down) the moving body segment.
When considering the throwing athlete there are a number of predictable
range of motion of changes throughout the body that arise as a result of
repetitive overhead throwing. Most notably, the shoulder and elbow have
been found to see these changes. Throwing is unique in that some of the
changes in range of motion can be due to bony adaptations from activity
stresses imposed during development and also because of normal soft tissue
(ligaments, muscles and tendons) changes.
A study performed by Reinold, et al in 2008 focused on the transient changes to range of motion in the
shoulder and elbow following pitching. The researchers looked at
professional baseball players (n=67) by measuring passive shoulder and
elbow range of motion before the start of spring training and then both
immediately after pitching as well as 24-hours later. The findings showed
a significant range of motion decrease in throwing *shoulder* *internal
rotation* (-9.5deg), *total rotation*; internal+external rotation
(-10.7deg), and *elbow extension* (-3.2deg). This is important because
other research has already shown that opposing muscle groups (shoulder
external rotators and elbow flexors) are highly active during throwing to
slow the arm down after ball release.
Reinold, et al (2008) suggests that these short-term changes to ranges of
motion are potentially due to musculotendinous adaptations; meaning the
motion loss is due to muscle stiffness. The importance of that finding is
that that could mean they are potentially reversible and players would
benefit from regular range of motion maintenance exercises to protect
against overuse shoulder and elbow injuries. Players would be well served
to be assessed by a therapist familiar with demands of throwing and have a
pre-habilitation range of motion maintenance routine included in warm-ups
Main Street Physiotherapy Clinic
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