With the amount of shoulder injuries that occur every year in baseball players I think it’s important we as coaches, trainers, and parents understand and appreciate the spine and what it can facilitate and inhibit when it comes to shoulder function. From professional players to little leaguer’s shoulder injuries have become an epidemic and sadly they have become more of a norm than they have “once in a blue moon” injury.
Where we don’t go wrong, but don’t really go right
I have been to countless baseball fields, toured many baseball facilities, and talked to many coaches, if there is one thing everyone loves to talk about its shoulder strength, rotator cuff activation, and of course shoulder internal and external drills. While activating the cuff with internal and external rotation drills isn’t totally wrong, I think there is a bigger piece of the puzzle that is missing.
Why the Spine? In today’s world we do a lot of sitting, looking at phones, and many other things that reinforce bad posture. With bad posture and more specifically a bad functioning spine, comes higher risk of shoulder problems. I have had clients come to me both baseball players and general pop clients who have done hours upon hours of rehab, yet never really addressed spinal alignment. If you do shoulder rehab with a poorly positioned spine, this would be like taking a shower before you go shovel cow manure.
Being stuck in a state of flexion or extension can greatly inhibit the shoulder and more specifically the scapulae. Before we attack the shoulder and activate the cuff, let’s look at a few things we can do to help clean up the spine and make it healthier and more functional.
Improve Toe Touch: Does the toe touch place the back in flexion? Yes. But it promotes better global flexion all around the body. This includes cervical, thoracic, lumbar, hip, and ankle flexion. This is especially important for many baseball players, as they are at greater risk for hanging out in extension posture.
Improve Thoracic Rotation: If we can improve this, we will be able to improve majority of movement patterns, and for athletes that require good rotation this can be huge for the functionality of their sport.
Improve ability to get in and out of extension: Like rotation we can enhance overall function in the body. Both in training and on the field, getting in and out of extension is important. Being stuck in flexion and extension can hinder any kind of athletic performance.
Summary: When addressing shoulder mobility, especially as it pertains to overhead athletes we can clean up the shoulder by fixing the spine. Part of 1 of being a better overhead athlete is improving function of the spine