Overuse has been considered the primary factor for most pitching injuries. Performing the same motion over and over again leads to what the strength and conditioning and medical science world calls Pattern Overload. This is when the body uses load sharing to reduce the stress on the muscle group that is being overused. This causes dysfunctional motor coordination and creates instability in the joint which leads to poor mechanics and eventually injury.
Symptoms of Pattern Overload for Pitchers
If you are a pitcher who is experiencing these issues then it is possible that you could be suffering from Pattern Overload:
- The Loss of range of motion in your throwing arm.
- Your coach is telling you that you are not getting enough arm extension.
- You are struggling with throwing strikes.
- When you lift weights your throwing arm is weaker than your non-throwing arm.
- When you throw, your shoulder pops and clicks and has pain in certain positions.
Pitching Pattern Overload
If you have never heard of Pattern Overload then you need to stop what you are doing and study this condition because it could end your pitching career. In layman's terms this condition occurs when the same pattern is repeated over and over again, like when throwing a baseball. What happens is the rotator cuff muscles begin to fatigue, the larger muscles of the shoulder, chest and back start to take over the joints movements. This not only changes mechanics but it creates instability in the joint. Instead of the joint rotating efficiently, it then begins to rotate off its axis. If the pattern continues than this can lead to the dislocation of the joint or the joint pulling away from its capsule. This would be like pulling a can from a six pack and then trying to stick it back into the plastic ring that held it in place. It doesn't work because the ring has been overstretch and is now bigger than the rim of the can. When this occurs, muscle and tendon/ligament damage is likely to occur which could lead to serious injury.
Pattern Overload is also detrimental to accuracy because of the loss of stability in the joint, the brain begins to loss control of the joint because of a proprioceptive deficit. This would be like changing the angle of the Axel on a remote control car. When you use the remote control to tell the car to turn right, it will over turn now because the Axel is not in its original position when the remote or brain was programed. This would be the same issue for a pitcher who is trying to hit the outside part of the plate but he continues to miss and miss.
How to recover from Pattern Overload?
If Pattern Overload leads to major muscle or tendon/liagment damage then surgery will be necessary and the joint will never be the same. If muscle or tendon/ligament damage isn't as serious then rest and the termination of the pattern causing the issue is the first step. Here is the rest times for muscle or tendon/ligament damage.
Muscle Tissue: Strains and minor tears heal quite quickly. This is predominantly due to the fact that muscle has an ample blood supply. Research shows only 7 days after a muscle strain, strength levels are 92.5% of maximum.
Ligaments and Tendons: It's generally accepted that there is little, if any, regeneration of these tissues once injured. The healing times of ligaments and tendons follow the natural, four phase progression of scar tissue development and maturation. The inflammation, granulation and fibroblastic phases begin within 24 hours, with wound closure happening in 5-8 days. The final stage, maturation, lasts between six months and one year. The scar is most responsive to stretch and remodeling for 8-10 weeks, and scar tissue shrinkage completes itself between 6 months and 1 year. Healing times for tendonitis will vary depending on how long it takes to identify the etiology of the problem! (1,2)
Once you have given the joint the proper time to rest and recover from the Pattern Overload and there is no more pain then it is critical that you build stability in the joint. This is when you must use a joint integrity program to strengthen the rotator cuff and rebuild integrity in the joint. The 3X Pitching Velocity program has a great joint integrity program.
Studies have shown that most machine exercises in weight training facilities can enhance Pattern Overload. If a machine is putting you through the same movement where the path of the movement is not changing then this is promoting Pattern Overload. This is why these studies suggest Free Weight Training over Machine Training. When an athlete performs a lift with a free weight the athlete never takes the same path of movement through the exercise. This has to do with the brain controlling the movement to prevent Pattern Overload. It has been proven that no athlete ever takes the same path during a free weight lift or exercise.
Pitchers are always working against the effects of Pattern Overload. This is why they must avoid any type of machine training on the throwing arm especially in-season. It is also important to avoid any type of heavy loads on the throwing arm if a pitcher is suffering from Pattern Overload. Throwing heavy loads on the unstable joint will either force the larger muscles to take over more control of the joint and continue the detrimental effects of Pattern Overload or it will damage and injure the joint. This is why a Pitcher should not train with heavy loads on the shoulder and arm while in-season when Pattern Overload is most common.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Pattern Overload you must stop the pattern immediately and rest. If there is pain I recommend you see a sports medicine doctor. Once you are cleared and rested you must start a joint integrity program like in the 3X Pitching Velocity Program.