baseball pitcher

With spring baseball season underway, and a new summer season around the corner, some players are already showing signs of fatigue and arm soreness with many games left to play.

During this time of year, questions often arise about surviving the season, like:

  • What do I do if my arm is sore?
  • When is it OK to throw after my arm has been sore?
  • How many pitches can I throw?

When your arm is sore, it’s your body’s way of telling you it has been overworked or over stressed. To some degree, the warning of soreness is OK — as long as you listen to it.

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What Does It Mean When Your Arm Hurts?

When we talk about arm soreness, we do not mean severe shoulder pain or sharp pains in the shoulder, neck, or elbow. These could indicate more serious conditions and should be examined by a medical professional.

The type of soreness that occurs after throwing is generally caused by over stressing the rotator cuff muscles.

Pitching is usually the position that produces a large degree of stress, secondary to the number of throws and the intensity level of each throw.

> Learn more about baseball overuse injuries.

Why Are Your Arms Sore?

The rotator cuff muscles cause rotational acceleration (concentric contraction) of the upper arm to propel the ball. They also slow down the arm after the ball is released, causing an eccentric contraction during deceleration.

These motions cause the muscles to become overstretched and sore.

Some theorize that this arm soreness is caused by micro-tearing of the muscle tissue; icing after throwing is an attempt to reduce the inflammation process.

RELATED: Treating Arm and Shoulder Injuries in Throwing Athletes

What to Do If Your Arm Hurts

Your arm needs rest after it’s stressed. By stopping the actions that produced the soreness, like throwing, the body heals over time. Continuing to throw compounds the problem, and:

How much rest for pitchers?

Think of it this way — if you ran a marathon on Monday would you run another one on Tuesday?

There’s no magic number on how much time is enough to start throwing again. Everyone has a different threshold. The amount of rest time depends on how much stress was induced and how resistant the muscles were to the stress. This resistance can be altered by increasing strength and endurance in the specific muscles used in throwing.

How many pitches?

Some organizations, like National Little League®, have instituted pitch count rules for various age groups. For example, if you pitch X pitches you must rest X amount of time before pitching again and there are maximums that can be reached. Although this is a good safety measure, it does not account for players that participate in multiple leagues. The best advice is to listen to your body. Don’t overdo it if you’re sore.

RELATED: Common Sports Injuries: Baseball

Tips for Reducing Arm Soreness

  • Train. Baseball specific training in the off-season, and a maintenance program in season, will help you maintain your strength and stamina.
  • Warm up properly before throwing.
  • Ensure proper throwing technique. Make sure you are throwing with your whole body. Your legs and core have much more power and stamina than your arm, so take advantage of it.
  • Use ice. Icing immediately after extreme throwing can be helpful.
  • Listen to your body. Soreness is your body’s way of telling you it needs some time to recover.

Want to learn more about improving your baseball performance? Visit the UPMC Sports Medicine website.

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.