Preventing Injury to a Pitching Arm
Preventing injury should always be on the mind of the pitcher and coaching staff. Pitching is stressful to the arm and the human arm is not designed to withstand long periods of such tremendous stress. That goes without saying. Without proper training and care, a pitcher can so easily injure or even permanently damage their arm. And once an injury occurs, proper attention is key to keeping the injury from turning into something more serious.
Over-exertion often leads to strain and injury. While most Little Leagues have rules regarding the number of innings a pitcher can throw, this is not necessarily the best way to determine over-exertion since innings can vary in length and intensity. An inning that drags out for 25-30 pitches will have an exertion level much higher than one in which less than 10 pitches are thrown. Obvious, right? Right. So, it stands to reason that pitch count is a better indication of exertion level than actual innings. Keep the pitch count low, or trade out the pitcher if the inning proves to be too long.
Between innings, pitchers need to keep their arm warm since the arm temperature can cool down rapidly. "Warming up" is not just a saying. The muscles loosen during the warm-up process, but should be done slowly. Pitchers should keep a jacket on between innings (even during summer months) to keep the muscles from contracting during the cooling effect and to lessen the soreness felt the next day. Just remember... proper care means less risk of injury.
As soon as the pitcher leaves the mound, have a coach, trainer or another player stretch his arms and legs to prevent the joints from tightening up. Requiring your pitcher to do wind sprints at the end of an inning is a great idea as it will also increase blood flow to the exerted muscles.
Keep in mind that care for the arm does not stop once the game is over. Now the cool down process is necessary to stop the micro-bleeding in the muscle tissue. Keep an ice pack handy and apply to the shoulder area for about twenty minutes. Be sure to use a thin towel between the arm and the ice pack to prevent over-freezing.
Diet is also key! A pitcher should eat a high protein/high carb meal about 1 to 2 hours after pitching to replenish the energy lost during the game and to feed those tired muscles.