What are Throwing Programs?
Overhead throwing athletes have unique needs because of the repetitive wear and tear that occurs with their upper arm while playing their sport. Every athlete wants to perform at their peak; however, because of the complexity and mobility of the shoulder and elbow joints, overhead throwing athletes are at a higher risk for injuring the shoulder and elbow.
Overhead throwing athletes tend to have structural differences in their shoulders when compared to non-athletes. They train for years to create controlled upper arm forces and power through movement. Overhead throwing athletes use their lower body’s kinetic energy and forces and funnel it through the shoulder and upper arm to maximize velocity and control. Yet they have great stability and amazing mobility of the shoulder and elbow joints to help them perform at their peak.
When pain, dysfunction, or an injury occurs, performance is affected. Too often, due to pressure to perform, overhead throwing athletes continue to perform through pain and dysfunction. The unfortunate consequence of doing so may be “career” ending whether a young and competitive athlete or a professional.
Some physical therapists have special training in managing musculoskeletal injuries and conditions affecting performance of overhead throwing athletes. These trained PTs have a unique skill set when assessing and treating an overhead athlete who is in pain, is losing performance, or is even injured. They have a high degree of training in anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics of the human body which gives them an advantage in working with injured overhead throwing athletes.
What to expect from Throwing Programs
Assessing the overhead athlete is part art and part science. Some will say we’ve become too reliant on imaging and standardized tests to assess the upper arm of an overhead throwing athlete. Several factors that need to come into play is a well-trained and seasoned overhead athlete will have more mobility, strength, and power so they don’t fit within the normal ranges we are accustomed to.
A highly-qualified PT can help overhead throwing athletes get back to peak performance. The first visit with your PT will be an assessment of the upper arm including establishing goals and plan. Every athlete is different, but most trained PTs understand the pressure bestowed on the athlete to get back to performing, so it is the PT’s goal to return the athlete back to performance both as quickly and safely possible.
They determine the athlete’s preparedness by completing a throwing assessment, but before they get to that stage in treatment, they focus on the basics in clinic. They work with the injured athlete on strengthening, flexibility, stability, and mobility of the joints. When they feel the athlete is getting close to returning to the game, the PT will complete a throwing assessment.
The athletes will be placed on a mound and videotaped while throwing. The PT is looking for mechanical movements more so than anything else. They want “clean movements” and control. The analysis typically takes about 1 hour including throwing, reviewing, and analyzing the throwing techniques.
Based on the assessment, the athlete is either given the go ahead to start throwing again, or they go back to the clinic and work on more strengthening, stability, and mobility to improve performance before completing another video analysis.
Every athlete is different. Treatment time and investment varies depending on the severity of the condition and motivation of the athlete.
Is a throwing assessment right for you?
If you are experiencing pain, or have an injury, to the upper arm affecting your ability to perform, an overhead throwing assessment is probably right for you. Most states have direct access to a physical therapist, meaning you can go directly to a physical therapist without a physician order. To determine if your state has direct access, please visit the American Physical Therapy Association’s website Physical Therapy Direct Access By State.
Not all PTs are qualified in throwing assessments and analysis, so to find a qualified PT near you, please click on Find A Clinic. This link will help you find a qualified throwing expert.