Each year as the New York Winter enters full swing, professional baseball players are heading to Florida or Arizona to report to Spring Training. I am lucky enough to be a consultant for the New York Mets, traveling down each February to help with the entry physicals for both the pitchers and position players. During these physicals, players undergo a comprehensive evaluation including a musculoskeletal screen, performance evaluation, orthopedic and medical screen so that we have specific areas of focus for each athlete. Most of these players enter Spring Training already in great physical condition as they were performing their team issued off-season programs. Off-season programs usually start with 1-2 months of rest or deload as they need time to recover from the long, grueling season. They then initiate a strength periodization training program allowing them to build a strength base for the upcoming season. When they get to Spring Training they should already be in excellent physical shape which allows them to continue to increase load and volume while focusing on sports specific drills. All of the players work through upper and lower body maintenance programs throughout the entire season in order to perform at an elite level while minimizing risk of injury.
Youth, High School and collegiate players should also follow similar guidelines. It is important not to play year round and take a few months off to allow for appropriate recovery. As the off season progresses, a baseball specific screen should be done to assess for any musculoskeletal or mechanical flaws. The HSS Overhead Athlete Screen and Pitchers Video Analysis at HSS West Side Sports Medicine Institute can be particularly helpful in learning proper technique and progression.
Here in the Northeast, players also have to take the weather into account. It often stays cold well into the baseball season, and a proper warm-up is necessary prior to playing or performing baseball activities. An active warm-up may consist of active stretching, light jogging or biking and serves to increase body core temperature, heart rate, and blood flow to the muscles, tendons and ligaments. This will increase the elastic properties of muscles and tendons and prepare the body for high speed activities, starting and stopping, and changes of direction. This may reduce the chance of injury and play a role in performance enhancement.
Wherever the team is located, strengthening and mobility exercises need to be maintained throughout the season to reduce muscular soreness and fatigue, increase rate of recovery, and prevent any muscular imbalances that often occur with baseball activities.
Updated on February 27, 2020