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What can young baseball and softball players learn from the pro’s training routines?

Guest post by:

Shane K. Woolf, MD
Chief, Sports Medicine
Associate Professor
Department of Orthopaedics
Medical University of South Carolina

Sunday was the first game of Major League baseball’s spring training. The excitement of the 2015 season is now in full swing. Pitchers and catchers reported to training over the past 2 weeks and the full squads generally reported about 5 days later. The drills, cardio work, flexibility/strengthening routines, and technical fine tuning over the next month will be essential to get players conditioned in time for the MLB season opener on April 5th.

Practices in the early weeks usually involve morning training routines on the fields adjacent to the spring game stadiums. Pitchers, catchers, and some position players returning from injury are usually the first to report. This enables them to work on throwing arm flexibility, strength training, core rehabilitation, throwing mechanics, or recovery from injury before the chaos of full team practices and preseason games sets in.

So, what aspects of spring training can be adopted for all baseball and softball players, from youth leagues up through elite college level ball?

General Fitness Considerations

First and foremost, players would ideally report to training already engaged in a preseason fitness program. Opening day for the Majors is only 4-6 weeks away from reporting day, so attempts to ramp up fitness from scratch in such a short period of time can be a set-up for early season injury.

Another general consideration is that an adequate nutritional program is essential to promote fitness, recovery, and improvement through the season. Most important is to balance caloric intake and include sufficient protein for recovery and healing of tissues stressed during activity. Maintaining hydration during and after practice is also essential. In particular, as athletes participate in progressively intense training or play, the metabolic and fluid needs of the body increase.  Similarly, a progressive program with ample rest is important to allow the body to adapt to higher intensity activity.

Flexibility Development

All Major League players participate in some type of flexibility program. Shoulder, back, hip, and lower limb flexibility is important no matter the position. A general daily flexibility program should be built into the training routine. One study showed that a dynamic stretching program could reduce hamstring injury risk, for instance. (1) For throwers, though, tightness of the back part of the shoulder joint (posterior capsule tightness) can alter throwing mechanics, increase impingement, and increase rotator cuff injury risk. (2) For the thrower, stretching the posterior shoulder joint capsule with ‘sleeper’ and ‘crossbody’ stretches can reduce risk of injury to the dominant shoulder as well as other structures like the elbow ulnar collateral ligament. (3) What thrower wouldn’t want to avoid an injury that could lead to Tommy John surgery?

Strength, Speed, and Agility Training

Core as well as throwing shoulder strengthening is the cornerstone of performance. Performance is improved with full-body resistance training and rotational plyometric work for bat speed. Upper body plyometric exercises are important for throwers. (4) A 2010 study showed that preseason weakness of the rotator cuff predicted higher risk for injury requiring surgery in professional pitchers. (5) So focusing on strength of the throwing shoulder can also help reduce injury rates.

Agility, speed, and lower-body power have been shown to be predictive of better performance in baseball players. (6) Thus, focusing on these areas during training and through the season can enhance performance. To develop speed, strength and conditioning coaches use form running drills. Squats, lunges and plyometrics are common core/hip programs. (7) While these specific exercises may not be appropriate for youth players, certainly box jumps, sit-ups, and plyometric hip exercises can be beneficial to players of all ages.

Metabolic Fitness

Baseball and softball are fundamentally sports that demand explosive power and speed more than aerobic endurance. Thus, cardiovascular and metabolic training in the preseason should focus on repeated sprints, jumps, plyometric, and agility work at near maximal exertion levels to enhance anaerobic performance. (8,9)

The key is to have an organized program in place and to engage the athletes in their own progress as well as injury risk reduction. To stay healthy all season, the athlete must prepare properly and early. If an unfortunate injury does develop, seek out the expertise of a sports medicine specialist, such as the team of professionals at MUSC Health Sports Medicine.

References

1 O’Sullivan et al: BMC Musculoskelet Disord (2009)
2 Myers et al: Am J Sports Med (2006)
3 Dines et al: Am J Sports Med (2009)
4 McEvoy and Newton: J Strength Cond Res (1998)
5 Byram et el: Am J Sports Med (2010)
6 Hoffman et al: J Strength Cond Res (2009)
7 Ebben et al: J Strength Cond Res (2005)
8 Rhea et al: J Strength Cond Res (2008)
9 Wallace et al: J Sports Med Phys Fitness (2007)

Guest Post by:

Michael J. Barr, PT, DPT, MSR
Sports Medicine Program Manager
MUSC Sports Medicine

The start of the Carolina Challenge Cup on February 21st, marks the return of Major League Soccer to Charleston.  This will be my 8th season providing sports medicine services for the Charleston Battery, and I cannot remember a Challenge Cup having so much pre-tournament hype.  We have been talking about the CCC for months, since it was announced that international superstars Kaka` and David Villa were coming to play for the new MLS expansion teams Orlando City SC and New York City FC respectively.  The Houston Dynamo is returning to Charleston again this year to round out the field with their new USL PRO affiliation, the Charleston Battery.

I know everyone is excited to see the international players compete against our local team. Personally, I am just excited to see some outstanding soccer being played by some of the greatest players in the world and I am not just talking about Kaka` and David Villa.  The Challenge Cup this year will also bring US National Team players Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud, and DaMarcus Beasley to Charleston.  What an outstanding combination of international and US National Team stars for the Charleston Battery to play against and for the local soccer community to enjoy watching and cheering for.

For one of these players, it is not the first time he has been to Charleston to play at Blackbaud Stadium.  For those of your who have been a soccer fan in Charleston for a long time, you may remember the College of Charleston playing a friendly against the U-17 US National Team in a pre-season match in 1999; DeMarcus Beasley was a member of that team.

DeMarcus Beasley had an outstanding game that day scoring an early second half hat trick; unfortunately I remember that game all too well, as I was the goalkeeper for the Cougars in the second half, who was repetitively picking up the ball out of the back of the net that game.  Beasley went on to having an exemplary professional and international career, and I learned a very valuable lesson in goal.  As one of my former goalkeeper coaches used to tell me, “a lesson in goalkeeping is a lesson in life.”  That game definitely taught me, that even though I had more years left in my playing career, I needed to have other options for the future as well.  I chose coaching soccer and Sports Medicine, which is why working with the Battery has been a perfect fit for me.  I am excited to see Beasley step back on the pitch in Charleston; and to be honest, I am even happier that I am not playing against him this time.

If you enjoyed watching the World Cup last summer or are just a local sports fan, come out to the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday February 21st, Wednesday February 25th, and Saturday February 28th ; I guarantee you will not be disappointed, between the quality of play on the field and the excitement in the stands, it will be a time to remember.

Guest Post by:
Lindsey Clarke, MS, ATC, CMT
MUSC Health
Sports Medicine

 

It’s that time of year where it’s just about time to hang up those basketball shoes or that wrestling singlet, and grab those cleats or glove. The winter sports season is ending and spring is just around the corner. While more and more high school student athletes are specializing in one sport earlier in their careers, there are still quite a few multi-sport athletes out there. It may seem that a multi-sport student athlete’s schedule is never ending, and the schedule they keep could do more harm than good. Transitioning from one season to the next doesn’t have to be as daunting and exhausting as it might seem…and playing multiple sports just might help you.

  • Many coaches are aware of multi-sport athletes and appreciate what they can bring to their team.  Coaches understand that the timing, intensity and type of physical exertion are different from one sport to the next.  There is a certain amount of adjustment for the multi-sport athlete in the early part of the season, and coaches have to be a little more patient.  Taking a different approach, and having a different mindset about how practices are set up can benefit their athletes making a transition from one sport to the next.
  • Over 7.5 million high school students participate in interscholastic athletics each year (National Federation of State High School Associations, n.d.). Proponents of high school sport programs believe these activities contribute to the overall education of students. While it may seem like students who are multi-sport athletes may be at risk for adverse affects in their class work, studies have shown that students involved in multiple sports actually have better grades, higher attendance rates, fewer discipline problems, and are less likely to be involved in risky behaviors.
  • It may seem that moving from one sport to the next with little to no rest in between seasons would be physically detrimental to an athlete, but the opposite is actually true. According to an American Medical Society for Sports Medicine report, diversified sports training during early and middle adolescence may be more effective than specializing early in regards to the development of elite-level skills.  This diversification can provide benefits such as skill transfer, can aid with development of more muscle groups for a more well-rounded athlete, and lessens the chance for burnout because of expanded interest. Variety in the physical demands of sports training is often a good thing because it prevents overtraining, and it lessens the degree of physical and psychological exhaustion.  Children who specialize in a single sport account for 50% of overuse injuries in young athletes.  In a study of 1200 youth athletes, Dr. Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University, found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70% to 93% more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports!
  • Playing conditions are also something to keep in mind when transitioning from one season to the next.  There are a number of variables that may require more attention when starting your next sport: playing surface, size of playing field, increased physical demands, number of participants, weather conditions, and equipment to name a few.  If addressed accordingly, these shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.  For example, if you ask a basketball player that is accustomed to a climate-controlled, smooth court wearing rubber soled shoes how they feel the first few days of soccer season, playing on an open-air soccer field in cleats, you might hear a few gripes! The key here is to be honest with yourself and know your limitations.  If you’re hurt, communicate with your coach and your athletic trainer. As a result, any injury that presents itself during your transition will get resolved and not plague your next season.

As an athletic trainer that provides coverage at a high school where approximately 1/3 of student athletes are multi-sport, I see my athletes deal with this constant flux year after year.  One of my senior girls shared some of her thoughts on her experiences as a winter to spring sport athlete for the past four years…

“I find it easier when I am playing different sports back to back.  It helps me focus on school work since I have a very limited time for certain things…time management is key.  The cross training is a huge help too.  Coming in with my conditioning from basketball allows me to focus more on learning the plays for lacrosse instead of trying to get in shape and change sports at the same time.  It’s also really fun.  Even though there are times I know my friends are doing things, or I feel tired, I just love playing, so really the benefits far outweigh the negatives for me”.  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Heart attacks and their aftermath tend to be more deadly in women. More women than men die within a year of having a heart attack. For many women, a heart attack may feel like a strange discomfort in the back or some other easily ignored sign, instead of crushing chest pain.

When women do go to the hospital, doctors may miss the diagnosis of heart attack because the symptoms are vague. Without a definite diagnosis, a woman may be sent home thinking that her symptoms don't mean anything serious.

Don’t miss the warning signs. Women are more likely to have "nonclassic" heart attack symptoms than men. These are the most common warning signals for heart attack:

  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • Chest discomfort with sweating
  • Pain that spreads from the chest to the arm, neck, or jaw
  • Shortness of breath, tiredness, or upset stomach; these are particularly common in women
  • If you are at risk for heart disease and have any of these symptoms, seek medical attention, up to and including calling 911, immediately. Time is a crucial factor in a heart attack because the longer the blockage remains untreated, the more heart muscle will die.

Sign up for more information on women’s heart health at muschealth.org/womenshearts

Guest Post by:

Michael J. Barr, PT, DPT, MSR
Sports Medicine Program Manager
MUSC Sports Medicine

If you are a regular reader of our sports medicine blog, or if this is your first time visiting our site, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and I hope our team has been providing useful information that has helped keep you on the field, court, or track.  All of our sports medicine specialists have special interests and expertise in certain realms of sports; me – I am a soccer person.  For those of you who are also soccer people, know that means I did not just play, but I am also dedicated to the growth of the game and to those who have played before me and those who will play after me.  I have played and coached at multiple levels in the US and abroad; the biggest thing I have noticed, throughout my playing and coaching career and now as a sports medicine provider, that can affect ones performance on the field during the season, is their individual level of fitness the first day of pre-season.

Many people believe that pre-season training should be used to get fit and prepare for the upcoming season.  This is partially true; however, the most productive pre-seasons are when players arrive to training fit and ready to play.  That way the team can focus on team fitness and not individual limitations, and they can start preparing both technically and tactically for the upcoming season.  If a player arrives into camp over weight and out of shape, they need at least 2-4 weeks to get fit, which hinders overall team development.  This issue holds true not just for professional soccer players but high school and club as well.

The old school of thought is to just go out and run a couple of miles or run 6-8 laps around the field.  Yes, I think there is a time and a place for distance running, but training programs, especially those pre-pre-season fitness programs should be individualized and have a level of periodization to best optimize a players abilities, in order to meet the demands of their specific position.  Therefor a back-to-goal forward should have a different workout program than an outside mid-fielder that continually makes overlapping runs and serves balls from deep into the offensive third.  So when designing your pre-pre-season training program, it is important to work with your coaches and athletic trainers to design a specific program to meet your individual needs.  All out-of -season training programs should include a combination of sprint training (I like to use the pyramid technique), interval training, strength and stability training, plyometrics and agility exercises, as well as long distance running.  My suggestion is that out-of-season fitness training should be done without the ball, so then during the season you can focus more on fitness with the ball and sprint work.

Here is an example of a pre-pre-season training program to get you started, but remember you will still need to tailor this to the individual demands of your position and your general fitness.

Day 1: Interval runs, plyometrics, and stability exercises:

·         Interval running: utilizing the soccer field sprint the baseline, then jog the sidelines completing 4-6 laps*.  (this can be progressed by increasing the number of laps, or transitioning to sprinting the sidelines and jogging the end lines or if you want even more of an interval split the sidelines as well so you would sprint from the corner to midfield, jog from midfield to the corner, sprint the end line, jog corner to midfield, etc …)

* Number of laps should be dependent on starting fitness level. Start with total of a mile and then progress the number of yards to 1.5 to 2 miles

·         Plyometric exercises: single leg hops, double leg jumps, scissor jumps

·         Core strengthening and stability exercises: push-ups, crunches, leg lifts, planks (front and side)

Day 2: Sprint training, agility training, and stability exercises:

·         Pyramid Sprint Training:

o   30yds x 2

o   60yds x 2

o   120yds x 1

o   90yds x 2

o   60yds x 2

o   30yds x 2

* 15-30sec rest between each sprint

·         Agility ladder or cone exercises

·         Pyramid Sprint Training:

o   30yds x 1

o   60yds x 1

o   90yds x 1

o   120yds x 2

o   90yds x 3

o   60yds x 3

o   30yds x 3

* 15-30sec rest between each sprint

·         Core strengthening and stability exercises

Day 3: Strengthening and Distance running:

·         Weight training –full body, light weight, high number of repetitions.

o   Dumbbell Chest Press on stability ball: 3x20

o   Dumbbell Overhead Press seated on stability ball: 3x20

o   Single Arm Dumbbell Row with opposite arm on stability ball: 3x20,

* Exercises 1, 2, 3 should be completed in rotation, ie.: 1 set of each exercise and then repeat

o   Reverse Crunch to lumber rotation (medicine ball between knees): 2x20

o   Single leg wall slide with stability ball and dumbbells: 2x20

o   Mini-Squat on BOSU with balance: 2 sets of 10 x 20 second hold

o   Single Leg Romanian Dead Lift:  Balance on 1 leg, hold a 5-10 lb weight in your opposite hand: 2x20

·         Distance running – minimum of 2-3 miles, should be completed in at most 7 to 8 minute mile pace (depending on distance, age and fitness level)

Day 4:  Off – stretching only

* Days 5-7: start over on day 1 again – increase times, repetitions, and weight as needed

* Dynamic Stretching should be completed at the beginning of each workout and static stretching should be completed at the end of each workout session.

The above workout is purely a guideline to use to start designing your individual pre-pre-season training program.  Work with your coaches and athletic trainers to help design a program that meets your individual needs, and encourage your teammates to do the same.  If your entire team shows-up to the first day of pre-season fit and ready to go, you will be 2 steps ahead of your competition.

 

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