Why Does My Bicep Hurt When I Throw A Baseball?

Baseball, with its fast-paced pitches and powerful throws, is a sport that demands peak physical performance from its players. If you’ve experienced bicep pain when throwing a baseball, you’re not alone. Understanding the causes behind this discomfort is crucial for both athletes and enthusiasts. In this guide, we’ll delve into the reasons behind bicep pain during throws and explore ways to overcome and prevent this common challenge.

Shoulder Anatomy

Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder is a complex joint made up of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. The rotator cuff muscles are especially important for pitching as they help stabilize the shoulder joint during the throwing motion. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These muscles originate on the scapula and insert on the humerus, forming a “cuff” around the shoulder joint. Their main function is to center the humeral head in the glenoid fossa, providing dynamic stability. Repeated throwing motions can put a lot of strain on the rotator cuff muscles and lead to injury if not properly strengthened.

Common Shoulder Injuries in Pitchers

Shoulder Injuries in Pitchers

Pitchers are especially vulnerable to overuse injuries in the shoulder due to the repeated throwing motion required in baseball.

Some of the most common shoulder injuries in pitchers include:

  • Rotator cuff strains: The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Repeated pitching can lead to inflammation and microscopic tears in the rotator cuff tendons, especially the supraspinatus tendon. This condition is known as rotator cuff tendinitis or impingement syndrome.

  • Labral tears: The labrum is a ring of cartilage around the socket of the shoulder joint. When the arm is forcefully taken overhead, the labrum can become pinched or torn. Labral tears are especially common in pitchers due to the extreme shoulder rotation required to throw a baseball.

  • Shoulder instability: Some pitchers are prone to shoulder instability, where the ball of the humerus does not sit securely in the shoulder socket. This can lead to repeated subluxations or dislocations. Instability is often caused by ligament laxity, muscle weakness, or labral tears.

Proper conditioning, strength training, mechanics review, and limits on pitch counts are important to help prevent these chronic overuse issues in pitchers. Early diagnosis and intervention can often help avoid more serious shoulder problems requiring surgery.

Causes of Bicep Pain During Throwing

Improper pitching mechanics are a major cause of bicep pain and strains during throwing motions. The windup phase where the pitcher raises their pitching arm up and back places significant stress on the biceps. As the pitcher rotates their body and moves their arm forward to release the ball, there is extreme deceleration that occurs. This deceleration phase puts a tremendous amount of force on the biceps and bicep tendon.

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If the pitcher’s mechanics are flawed, with improper positioning of the elbow or shoulder joint, it can increase the strain placed on the biceps during both the windup and deceleration phases. For example, hyperextending the elbow during the windup can make the bicep work much harder to control the movement. Pitchers may also exhibit improper sequencing where the arm accelerates faster than the body can rotate forward, leading to greater deceleration forces on the biceps. Additionally, inefficient energy transfer up the kinetic chain from the legs and core can require the biceps to work harder to throw the ball.

Overall, improper pitching mechanics that place excessive strain on the biceps during the throwing motion are a primary cause of overuse injuries like bicep tendonitis in pitchers. Coaches should focus on evaluating mechanics during both the windup and deceleration to identify flaws that could contribute to bicep pain when throwing.

Risk Factors

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Several risk factors can increase a pitcher’s chances of experiencing bicep pain or injury when throwing a baseball, including:

  • Not warming up properly before pitching can leave muscles tight and cold, increasing injury risk. A proper dynamic warm-up prepares the body for the throwing motion.

  • Overuse is a major risk factor, as pitching while fatigued stresses the arm repeatedly. Adolescent pitchers who pitch year-round have higher injury rates. Rest periods are crucial.

  • Muscle imbalances between the shoulders, chest, back, and arms can increase strain on the biceps tendon and cause pain. Targeted strength training can help.

  • previous injury like a shoulder dislocation or bicep tendinitis can make the area more prone to future injury if not fully rehabilitated. Returning to pitching too soon increases risk.

Prevention

Proper pitching mechanics are important for preventing injuries. Pitchers should avoid overusing certain muscles and affecting joint alignment, which can increase strain. Focusing on using the entire body, engaging the legs and core, allows for better distribution of force and takes stress off the shoulder and elbow.

Strength training to build muscle strength and endurance in the shoulders, core, and legs helps take pressure off the arm during throwing. A good warmup and stretching routine before throwing, as well as rest periods between pitching, prevents overuse. Cooling down and gentle stretches after activity allows the muscles to recover.

Avoiding pitching year-round, monitoring pitch counts, and taking regular rest periods gives the body time to regenerate between seasons. Trying to increase throwing frequency, speed, or distance too quickly raises injury risk. A gradual, measured progression in training allows the muscles, tendons, and joints to adapt.

Treatment

There are several ways to treat bicep pain caused by pitching. Initially, resting the arm from throwing and other aggravating activities is crucial to allow the bicep to heal. Applying ice to the bicep for 15-20 minutes multiple times per day can also help reduce pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen may provide relief as well.

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Physical therapy focused on rotator cuff and scapular stabilizer strengthening is often recommended. Exercises like internal and external rotation with resistance bands can target the rotator cuff muscles around the shoulder joint. The scapular muscles should also be strengthened to improve stability and mechanics of the shoulder blade when pitching. For optimal recovery, a customized rehabilitation program under the supervision of a physical therapist or athletic trainer is ideal.

When to See a Doctor

Doctor

If bicep pain associated with throwing persists for more than 2 weeks or is severe, it’s important to see a doctor for evaluation (Mayo Clinic). Persistent or severe shoulder pain that is not relieved by rest, ice, or over-the-counter medications may indicate a more serious injury like a muscle strain or tear that requires medical attention (Duke Health).

It’s also important to seek medical care if the shoulder pain is causing significant loss of function or range of motion. If you are unable to lift your arm overhead or throw a ball without severe pain, see a doctor. Getting an accurate diagnosis is key to determining the right treatment plan and exercises to properly rehab the injury.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing a shoulder injury typically starts with a patient history and physical exam. The doctor will ask questions about the onset and nature of the pain, any prior injuries, and activities that aggravate it. They will palpate the shoulder and check range of motion, looking for swelling, tenderness, deformities, or muscle weakness that could indicate a specific injury.

If a rotator cuff tear is suspected, the next step may be imaging tests like MRI or ultrasound to look at the soft tissues. These can confirm the location and extent of any tears. X-rays are more useful for bone injuries like fractures. Comparing range of motion between shoulders can also help identify a tear or impingement. The combination of a thorough physical exam and imaging helps doctors accurately diagnose most shoulder injuries.

Rehabilitation Exercises

Recovering from a rotator cuff injury often involves physical therapy and a customized exercise program to help strengthen the muscles and tendons in the shoulder.

Some common rotator cuff rehabilitation exercises include:

  • External rotation: Stand with your elbow pinned to your side and a resistance band looped around your wrist. Rotate your arm outward, keeping your elbow immobile. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

  • Doorway stretch: Stand in a doorway and place your forearm against the door frame. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

  • Side lying external rotation: Lie on your side with your arm pinned beneath you and elbow bent 90 degrees. Keeping your elbow on the floor, raise your hand toward the ceiling as far as you can. Lower back down and repeat 10-15 times.

  • Scapular retraction: Sit or stand holding a resistance band straight out in front of you. Pull the band back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax. Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

  • Prone horizontal abduction: Lie on your stomach with your arm hanging straight down off the side of a table or bed. Keeping your elbow straight, raise your arm out to the side. Hold for 2 seconds, lower, and repeat 10 times.

It’s important to start rehabilitation exercises slowly to avoid further injury. A physical therapist can recommend the appropriate exercises and reps based on your specific condition. With time and consistency, these strengthening exercises can help you return to throwing pain-free.

Returning to Pitching

Baseball Pitcher

Gradual progression is key when returning to pitching after a bicep injury. It’s important that pitchers follow a structured throwing program under the supervision of their doctor or physical therapist. This allows the arm to rebuild strength and range of motion in a controlled, progressive manner.

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Most return to throwing programs start with simple range of motion exercises and light tossing at short distances. The distance and intensity is slowly increased over 4-6 weeks or longer. A typical program may start tossing from 45 feet and advance 15 feet at a time up to 120 feet before throwing from the mound.

It usually takes 3-6 months or longer for a pitcher to make a full recovery and safely return to competitive pitching after a biceps injury. Pitchers must be patient and not advance too quickly in the throwing program, which could lead to re-injury. Close monitoring by a doctor is important to ensure each step of the progression is tolerated before advancing. With a slow, gradual approach, most pitchers can successfully return to the mound.

FAQs

Can bicep pain be a sign of a more serious injury?

A: Yes, persistent or severe bicep pain could indicate an underlying issue, such as tendinitis or a muscle strain. Consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

Is it normal to experience some discomfort after pitching?

A: Mild soreness is normal, especially for pitchers who are actively training. However, persistent or acute pain should be addressed promptly.

How can I know if my pitching mechanics are causing the pain?

A: Work with a qualified coach who can analyze your pitching mechanics. Video analysis can also provide insights into any flaws in your technique.

Conclusion

Bicep pain when throwing a baseball is a common challenge, but with the right understanding and preventive measures, you can minimize discomfort and optimize your performance on the mound. Whether you’re a seasoned pitcher or a recreational player, prioritizing proper warm-up, focusing on mechanics, and incorporating strength training into your regimen will contribute to a healthier and more enjoyable baseball experience.

Don’t let bicep pain keep you sidelined – pitch without the pain and continue to enjoy the exhilarating game of baseball.

Adrian Cook
Adrian Cook

Hello, I'm Adrian Cook, and I am the author of BaseballMatchDay.com. I have a deep-rooted connection to baseball as I was once an avid player of the sport. Baseball has always held a special place in my heart, and my personal experiences as a player have shaped my understanding and love for the game. Having been on the field, I intimately understand the intricacies, challenges, and joys that come with playing baseball. It is this firsthand experience that allows me to bring a unique perspective to the content I create.

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