With Little League® practices in full swing around the nation, there are more baseball and softball gloves getting used right now than any other time of year. And in the early part of the season, it's crucial to remember the importance of warming up, stretching and keeping young arms healthy.
Little League does more than any other organization to keep players safe on the field. Little League’s research has lead to the development of best practices during the season to keep arms healthy, like pitch counts in baseball and inning limits in softball. You can learn more about Little League's dedication to arm safety in this December 2013 article from The Parent Connection.
Early in the season, it’s important to make sure your Little Leaguer gets into a routine of warming up and stretching before hitting the field.
“Stretches and warm-ups should include all major muscle groups,” said Dominic Julian, Athletic Trainer and Product Developer for ACE™ Brand, Official Sports Medicine Partner of Little League. “Shoulders and arms, while important, shouldn’t be the only focus for baseball and softball. Stretching the torso, back and legs are equally important.”
Stretching and Warm Up
“Stretching and warming up are important for many reasons,” said Julian. “One is that it helps prepare muscles and joints for the activity by increasing blood flow and flexibility. Time should be dedicated to warming up and stretching prior to each practice and game so that it becomes routine.”
Julian recommends that athletes should warm up their muscles first, and follow that with stretching. The warm-up should be an aerobic activity, such as jogging, for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Stretching routines should combine static (stretch and hold position for 10-20 seconds) with dynamic stretches (movement involved). Click here to see a PDF from ACE Brand on stretching tips
Start at Home
Even when you’re in your backyard, warming up and stretching are important before picking up the glove. Make sure you’re incorporating a similar warm-up and stretching routine before working with your Little Leaguer at home.
According to Julian, equally important at home is ensuring that you are providing good nutrition, checking for injuries and monitoring if your Little Leaguer is fatigued, beyond normal.
When playing catch, start at short distances before breaking out the long toss, or doing pitching drills.
One drill great for warming up an arm is putting your glove arm in front of you, almost like you’re holding a shield. Then, put the elbow of your throwing arm on the wrist of your glove arm, and flick the ball to your Little Leaguer. Have your child catch the ball and do the same flick back to you. Do that for 5 to 10 minutes to get your wrists and forearms warmed up before playing catch.
“Following this routine early in the season can help reduce injuries, but also help keep players feeling better and fresher as the season progresses,” said Julian.