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The Cost of Inaction

This past summer a local high school athlete asked that while he didn't necessarily want to start training, his school didn't have an accurate radar gun, and he wanted to see what he was. We said sure, and he came in. We talked for a bit, discussed his history, and looked at his arm. He had tremendous range of motion and laxity to his arm, and sure enough, on the mound he sat 90-91mph. His nascent velocity was confirmed a few weeks later at Area Code tryouts where he hit 93, and was deluged with top D1 offers. He came by soon after and we talked again. I told him that while his tremendous gifts in his arm allowed him to throw very hard at a young age, if he continued to do nothing to address his arm health, injury was only a matter of time. I explained that since he had pitched frequently throughout his little league years (wear and tear), had already had to take time off the prior year with arm pain (arm was already succumbing to injury at pre puberty velo), and his lower half and back lacked the strength to properly decelerate his arm and redistribute the stress of throwing (horsepower of a Ferrari placed upon the chassis of a huffy), on top of not doing an individualized arm care program versus a generic one, he was on his injury honeymoon; that while he felt no pain currently in his arm, his arm would eventually hit the threshold and he'd have a sizeable problem. He nodded along, then shifted the conversation back to how well he was doing; MLB teams were calling, and he could be an early rounder in the upcoming draft. I told him I was happy things were going so well for him, and dropped pressing him about doing anything about his long term arm health. Over the course of the fall a few athletes in the gym who knew him had asked if he was ever going to start training, but he always gave an excuse; no time, no money, etc. When success comes so easily at 17 years old it can be easy to get sedentary. 

      I didn't hear anything about him for awhile until this spring when the news came out not only would he unfortunately not be an early rounder, there'd be no senior year of baseball; he had upcoming surgery for Tommy John. Hopefully his recovery is successful. But as we preach at the gym, the best injury rehab is to simply not put yourself in position to have the injury in the first place, because for every Stephen Strasburg that has come back from TJ successfully, there's a 100 other pitchers you've never heard of, because they didn't. And for those who were hard throwers because of great external rotation in their arm, if they can't get it back after TJ, which often happens, they're done. You hear the same pattern over and over: rehab is going great, catch was great, but then they get up on the mound again, and it's "weird" and they feel irritation. They've lost their great external rotation, and their arm action, as well as their baseball playing days, are over. 

    The problem many athletes have is they wait until AFTER an incident to do things they should have been doing PRIOR. They wait until they've lost their starting spot, and now they want to strength train. They wait until they have arm pain, and now they want to know what to do to get healthy. There's an ocean of talented athletes, but it's the ones that seek out ways to get better BEFORE they have to compete against talent greater than theirs, or they encounter arm pain, or the team signs someone at their position, that succeed. Inaction is an action all its own: you're choosing to stay exactly the same, and once an athlete takes the action of inaction, there's always a heavy price to later pay. 

Semper Fi

AF


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