You’ve Got To Move It, Move It

Summer is the season when people on the move. How you move, what you move and when you move are all important. Movement is what our Physical Therapists at Rejuv Medical live and breathe. Physical therapy is often thought of as a means to recover from an injury, however, it is also a great tool to help prevent injury, especially sports-related injury. Proper form can help you optimize your game!

Think about it.

You might think you can march right out on the green and crush that Callaway, but is your swing all it should be? Could your accuracy be dialed in? Are you in real danger of ripping your rib meat with that wild whack of yours?

Or say that bowling is your game. Think you’ve got the mad skills to nail those sweet strikes consistently?  Is your rhythm right to throw with the force you need and the precision that’s required to rack up a great score? Is your wrist at risk for some serious strain?

Golf and bowling are great sports but when it comes to summertime sports enthusiasts who are looking to recover from an injury or knock some new moves out of the park, baseball is where it’s at.

At Rejuv Medical, we work with all athletes with any head-to-toe issue using the tools of our trade including regenerative procedures, medical fitness and physical therapy, to take them to the next level of their game.  But when it comes to baseball, a throwing analysis is the key tool we use to help optimize a player’s throwing performance now and for the long term. Sure, your athlete can throw a ball, but think of how much further and more accurately it will fly If it’s thrown correctly!

I sat down with Brittney Braegelmann, Physical Therapy Manager at Rejuv Medical, to learn more about a throwing analysis, one of the physical therapy department’s key methods for safe movement, injury prevention and performance enhancement.

 Kirsten: Why is a throwing analysis important for an athlete?

Brittney: Overhead throwing, such as in baseball, football, volleyball and tennis, puts a ton of force though an athlete’s arm, in particular on their joints such as their shoulders, elbows and wrists. The mechanics of their throws need to be consistently correct and precise in order to absorb the force of the throw and reduce the likelihood of injury. Injuries in this critical throwing area can be bad enough to end a career so we don’t want that. Lots of players who come in do have mechanical flaws that need to be addressed and corrected.

 Kirsten: How do you conduct a throwing analysis?

 Brittney: It’s actually a series of appointments. The first time I meet with a patient, I do a full evaluation and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour. We evaluate strength, range of motion, and movement patterns first, and then go into the fitness center to take a special video of the patient actually throwing a ball that can be slowed down to super slow motion so I can see how the athlete grips and releases literally frame by frame. From there,  I can determine if there are specific mechanics playing a role in injury or performance. Then I review the video with the player and make treatment recommendations for strengthening, stretching, or throwing drills that will improve their mechanics. Basically, we give them a new way to practice that corrects how they are throwing. At a later date, we can repeat the process to determine if adequate correction has taken place.

 Kirsten: So, who should get a throwing analysis?

 Brittney: Our throwing analysis appointments are most common for youth athletes so they can learn the proper mechanics of their sport when they are young and then perfect those mechanics as they grow. You’ve heard that it’s easier for kids to learn a new language? Same goes for learning the language of their sport. So, start them young! It takes thousands of repetitions of an action for it to become a learned behavior. In essence, we retrain the brain until the correct movement becomes the normal movement.

A throwing analysis is also ideal for an athlete who is recovering from an injury or a mature athlete who is looking to gain an edge. Anyone who plays softball, football, volleyball, tennis or baseball would likely find this analysis extremely helpful.

 Kirsten: Sounds like a throwing analysis is perfect for anyone who takes their game seriously.

 Brittney: Absolutely! I had an opportunity to work with a pitcher from Rocori, Dylan Tebrake, a few years ago. He was a very promising player, but he had developed shoulder pain from pitching. Wear and tear of the shoulder is very common in overhead athletes. Dylan had come here to Rejuv Medical to receive platelet rich plasma injections to help his body heal the injury naturally, quickly and without surgery. As part of his physical therapy, we did a throwing analysis in order to identify what may have caused the injury and how we could help him prevent that injury from recurring as well improve his overall mechanics.

Dylan wanted to play baseball in college, so he wanted to be as healthy as possible and perform at his best level. We did the first throwing analysis prior to his PRP procedure. He’s a great pitcher and he already had good form, so we were looking for any slightly abnormal movements or mechanics in his grip, wrist position, shoulder, core and step length. We conducted and filmed multiple angles, then analyzed the film frame by frame. We found out that his pitching arm was extending past his body and his timing was off. That small but critical space and timing of his throwing arm in relation to his lead foot touching the ground, can cause significant pressure on his shoulder and likely contributed to his injury. By repeatedly doing those small, but incorrect movements again and again, he was putting himself at risk for tearing and impingement.

In order to correct the over-extension of his arm and improve timing, we had him practice the wind-up and early cocking stages of throwing with his body up next to a wall as a physical barrier. Now he was unable to overextend and couldn’t  get that arm past the wall, which after practicing it the prescribed 100 times per day, became his new natural position.  In addition to adjusting these few things, he continued to work with his coaching staff to improve his mechanics.

Following his PRP and subsequent therapy, we repeated the throwing analysis in July of 2018. Dylan continued to perform his strengthening exercises in addition to his throwing drills. At the end of the summer he went to college, worked with his coaching and sports medicine staff, and went on to be a starting pitcher on the Creighton University, Nebraska, baseball team as a freshman.

 Kirsten: So you work with coaches too?

 Brittney: Yes, it takes teamwork to fine tune these athletes. I’m not a pitching coach. I look at a person’s body mechanics and determine if what I see may be impacting an injury and causing pain. Everyone works together to find the best solution. The throwing analysis is just one piece of the puzzle that we use to treat the whole patient.  We’ve found that these throwing analyses are great tools to helping us get players back in the game and reducing the risk of injury. It’s really a proactive way to prevent injury in the first place. Players don’t have to be hurt to come see us! We’d rather help them before they get hurt!

Want to get your athlete’s throwing motion analyzed? Call (320) 217-8480 to schedule an appointment.