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The Injury Honeymoon

  Most people view health as the absence of pain. However, research shows that the human body can tolerate an immense amount of stress, even to the point of sustaining injury, WHILE REMAINING ASYMPTOMATIC (without pain). One study looking at baseball players found that an amazing 40% had a partial tear of their rotator cuff, yet were PAIN FREE (Connors et al 2003). Another study (Jensen MC et al 1994) performed MRI's on people with NO back pain, and found a full 82% had some degree of abnormality in their backs, ranging from bulges to herniated discs. These studies confirm what those who've worked with injured populations know: If the underlying inefficiencies many people and athletes carry around aren't managed or addressed, it's simply a matter of time before enough stress accumulates to cause pain, and for the athlete to have an MRI to reveal what was already there. Many athletes are simply waiting for enough stress to accumulate for the body to become symptomatic. This is what I call the "injury honeymoon". If a pitcher has any degree of talent and is throwing decently hard, but isn't wise enough to manage his arm properly, it's only a matter of time before the body can no longer tolerate the stress, and becomes symptomatic. There's two major factors to managing the arm properly: 

Avoiding overuse: Research shows that pitching more than 100 innings in a year = 3x greater risk of injury; more than 8 months per year = 5x greater risk of injury. Pitchers need an offseason every year of simply setting the ball down! 

Redistributing stress: It's well known that the act of repeatedly throwing a baseball isn't healthy for the shoulder. So it becomes critical that every time a baseball is thrown, that stress on the shoulder is redistributed. For the pitcher that has been on an effective training program that builds critical strength in his lower body and back, the stress of that throw is distributed amongst those muscle groups. However, for the legions of small and physically weak pitchers, the stress of that throw is placed squarely on his rotator cuff. The cuff quickly fatigues and gets overwhelmed, and the elbow begins picking up the slack. Caveat: if you throw 82, there is less stress already built in on each throw compared to someone throwing 92. Your injury honeymoon will last longer, it's just you'll be out of the sport very quickly due to lack of performance. 

While no arm care/training program can guarantee you'll never be injured, intelligent programs can certainly mitigate the odds you will. Even more importantly, developing a strong body and working individual arm care needs typically results in a significant and SUSTAINABLE increase in velocity. In an impatient society that looks for quick fixes, it's easy to sell "6 week Velo!" and other time framed gimmick programs. But for those who are wise enough to cut through the marketing BS and embark on a program that gives no short term promises but only a path of hard work, the results are worth the effort. 

Semper Fi

AF 

References: 

Connor PM et al. Am J Sport Medicine 2003 Sep-Oct. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Asymptomatic Shoulder of Overhead Athletes

Jensen MC, et al N Engl J Med. 1994. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in people without back pain. 


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