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Shoulder Health In The Overhead Athlete

By / May 22, 2019

This blog will focus on shoulder health in the overhead athlete, specifically baseball players. We will review all pertinent shoulder anatomy that contributes to the throwing motion in this first post.  Nick Motsinger, DPT, CSCS, will be demonstrating some very effective strengthening exercises and total body drills for these muscle groups. These exercises and drills can be incorporated into any warm-up routine or maintenance program to help reduce the risk of shoulder injuries and improve your performance this season.

The overhead throwing motion is an extremely skillful and complicated movement. When throwing a baseball, the overhead athlete places enormous demands on the shoulder complex due to the considerable forces that are generated with such a movement. In this first part of the video, all pertinent shoulder anatomy that contributes to the throwing motion will be reviewed. It is imperative that the majority of the muscles highlighted in this post be strong in order to decrease arm fatigue, and thus the risk of injury, in the overhead athlete.


The Thrower’s Ten

The Thrower’s Ten Program was developed by Kevin Wilk, DPT, and Dr. James Andrews in conjunction with a group of experts with over 100 years of combined baseball sports medicine experience. The Program highlights the best rehabilitation exercises and movements to isolate and strengthen the muscle groups that contribute to the throwing motion. The Thrower’s Ten Program has been shown to address the three most significant causes of shoulder and elbow problems in throwing:
1) decreased arm strength, 2) increased fatigue, and 3) lack of flexibility.

The Thrower’s Ten Program consists of 21 exercises in total. I will demonstrate 8 of these exercises in the first portion of the video and 9 more in the second section (I will not be demonstrating the four wrist strengthening exercises included in the Program). The Program has been designed so that it does not require a lot of equipment or even dumbbells to successfully complete. It can even be properly performed using just resistance tubing or bands. Start with 1 set of 10 reps for each exercise and go from there!
-Diagonal pattern D2 extension & Diagonal pattern D2 flexion
-External rotation at 0 deg. abduction & Internal rotation at 0 deg. abduction
-External rotation at 90 deg. abduction & Internal rotation 90 deg. abduction
-Shoulder abduction to 90 deg. & Scaption, external rotation

This second part of the video is a continuation of the first portion of the video which highlighted the first 8 exercises of the Thrower’s Ten Program. Exercises 9-17 will be demonstrated in this portion (again, I will not be demonstrating the four wrist strengthening exercises included in the Program). Like I mentioned before, start with 1 set of 10 reps for each exercise and go from there! The Thrower’s Ten Program is a safe, simple, and effective way to help reduce the risk of shoulder injuries and improve your performance this season.
1. Sidelying external rotation
2. Prone horizontal abduction (neutral) & Prone horizontal abduction (full external rotation, 100 deg. abduction)
3. Prone rowing & Prone rowing into external rotation
4. Press-ups & Push-ups
5. Elbow flexion & Elbow extension (abduction)


This last portion in our Shoulder Health in the Overhead Athlete series will address mobility and stability concerns of the lower half and core that may prevent a consistent release point. This portion is for all you baseball pitchers out there!

Mike Reinold, DPT does a great job of highlighting some of these issues in his article, “5 Mobility Issues That May Prevent a Consistent Release Point.” If you have mobility or stability concerns in your lower half and core, your body is going to make necessary adjustments with your arm in an effort to throw a strike. This can lead to shoulder and elbow injuries that would otherwise be avoidable. In this portion, I will be demonstrating 8 exercises designed to combat five common mobility and stability faults found in the overhead athlete, specifically pitchers. These common faults are:
1. Inconsistent lead knee and trunk flexion
2. Restricted lead hip mobility
3. Restricted rear hip mobility
4. Poor rear leg stability
5. Poor core control

As with the previous exercises highlighted in this series, start with 1 set of 10 reps for each exercise and increase as tolerated.
1. Lunge onto an unstable surface (BOSU) & Trunk core control drill
2. Get into your hip drill & Posterior hip mobilization
3. Adductor foam rolling & Adductor mobilization
4. Wind-up stability at a balance point
5. Anti-extension core control drill

For questions or for more information please feel free to contact Nick Motsinger at nickm@apexpt.com