When a season is winding down, and player’s fall workouts are ending many players wonder how long they should take off from throwing. The player has just been in-season for anywhere from 6 to 8 months, or longer, and may be physically or mentally drained from the grind of a long season. Their arms are dragging, back may be a little sore, hips and legs may even feel tight, or they may even feel great! But how long should they take off from throwing to give themselves the best chance to not only succeed but also to stay healthy in the following seasons?
We begin by looking at this question in a global, more general sense. Taking time off from throwing allows the body to heal and to address other areas, like mental and physical health. The best way to figure out how long to take off from throwing is to reverse engineer your throwing program. What this means is that you need to look ahead to the following season and pick the date that you think you will be making your first maximum intent, in game throws. This may be different for a collegiate Friday starter than it will for a high school outfielder. Once you set that day in your head you should be picking a date that is at least 4 months, and ideally 5 months, prior to your in-game throws. For example, if you’re the best pitcher in the SEC and plan to start the opening game for your team on February 15th, you should begin your progressive on-ramp back to throwing sometime around September 15th. If August 15thwas your last summer game, then you can theoretically have a 4-week window in which you can take off from throwing. On the other hand, if you’re a high school pitcher in the Northeast Region of the country your games may not start till March 15thand your summer season may have ended on July 31st. This gives you a little extra wiggle room to work with. In general, 4-6 weeks is probably an appropriate time frame for resting your arm. There is a stipulation…
Time off isn’t the primary factor to look at when deciding a time frame to return to throwing. Over 62% of arm injuries occur in the first three months of a season. This stat shows us that we are doing too much too soon. Returning to throwing should be a very slow and gradual process so that our bodies can adequately adapt to the stresses we are placing on them. The 4-5 month on ramp period for throwing should begin at a very low level and slowly progress to max intent throws from the mound of field. With a 5 month plan you can see how progressive and gradual this process can be. The time off is great but it’s the return plan that makes all the difference.
You’ve decided to take 4 weeks off from throwing, now what? This is the next question that comes up, and it all depends on your ‘Why?’ for taking time off. Are you taking time off to deal with a throwing related pain or injury? Do you need a mental reset? Are you going to travel? Will you be playing another sport? Do you want to get ahead on studies? These are all questions that dictate the next step of your time off. Ideally, you would meet with your physical therapist, strength coach, and sport coach to talk about injuries, off season plan, and goals, respectively, so that you can give yourself the best chance for health and success down the road. Once you’ve addressed your ‘Why?’ you can use the remaining time to get your body in the optimal state and begin the process that looks forward to the next season. Detailed planning and processes are imperative to remain healthy and give yourself the best chance to succeed.
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