Since players have been self-isolating, the worry is that conditioning is currently suboptimal as many have not been able to work out diligently during the nationwide lockdown.
Combining the boredom of self-isolation with improving weather and the absence of play, baseball athletes and their families are more excited than ever to get back on the field.
Dr. Christopher Ahmad is the head physician for the New York Yankees and urges caution to some younger athletes. Dr. Ahmad has performed many Tommy John surgeries in the past and has said he has seen spikes in surgeries. He says some of these reasons are from a sudden start of play, rapid competition intensity, lack of early season conditioning, and lower preparation during the off-season.
With the COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of issues for all athletes right now, Dr. Ahmad says the enthusiasm to get back to playing baseball is enormous right now. Players and their families are passed their breaking points and have grown impatient.
Since players have been self-isolating, the worry is that conditioning is currently sub-optimal as many have not been able to work out diligently during the nationwide lockdown. Also, if baseball were to start soon again, throwing may be increased in rapid succession due to compromised rest and available arms among a teams pitching staff.
There are many ways we can prevent our young athletes from preventing future injuries. Baseball may be back this summer or this fall, and it may not. Either way, players should take action now. As a coach myself, I want to highly, highly encourage players to initiate or continue a strength and endurance program for the health of their shoulders, elbows, and their core and leg muscles. Obviously, nothing can be forced upon them, but it is encouraged from physicians as well as coaches.
Some ways athletes can do this is by plotting out on a calendar, a throwing program that can prepare them for a potential season. While we are self-isolated(currently until May 18), this may open the need to improvising. Your normal throwing program through your high school or summer ball may not be accessible or possible due to our current stay at home order.
If alone, an athlete can throw against a wall or a homemade backstop. Play catch with mom or dad, brother or sister. Follow your calendar and throw progressively. Build your arm strength while also incrementally exposing different muscles of your body to tiny bits of stress to strengthen muscles and reduce injury. When the game comes back, players and their parents should take a mindset of remaining healthy and enjoying the game.
It is also highly encouraged athletes get their arms in shape so that once they return they can recognize the difference between being sore and developing pain or injury symptoms. While soreness early on is common, it should be considered that while feeling compelled and/or motivated to play after waiting so long, that a coach does not want to shut down a player disclosing an injury.
During this pandemic, it can be highly frustrating to take a slow and progressive approach, but it is needed. Dr. Ahmad compared it to “going fast with a return to baseball is like tail-gating the car in front of you at high speed.”
With no sports to play and no practices, athletes are besides themselves right now. These athletes don’t have a lot of time to play these sports. Most have four to six years at a competitive level. Physicians are concerned also about athletes experiencing depression from not being able to play sports. It is important for these athletes to find a hobby or continue their conditioning to stimulate their minds.
With the increased enthusiasm of wanting to get back on the field combined with the lack of proper conditioning and poor mechanics, it is urgent athletes create a development plan. What they do now will play a role in how successful they are when the game returns. Whether that is this summer, fall, or next spring. What they do now will be recognized or not recognized. Whether you are a high schooler or a college athlete, there won’t be any scouts at any games anytime soon. How an athlete decides to establish themselves during this time will become apparent. They can separate themselves from the pack now. Make the best of the situation, don’t let the situation be your excuse.
Be present, stay flexible. Go virtual. Read online or find videos. Educate yourselves, teach yourself. Parents, help your athletes expand their knowledge. With technology nowadays, the possibilities and resources are endless.