With the start of the 2023 Major League Baseball season, Lawrence V. Gulotta, MD, will be busier than ever as the New York Mets' chief orthopedic surgeon. And since he's also an active member of the School for Special Surgery (HSS), he doesn't just work with professional athletes.
Unfortunately, spring is a time when the weather is getting a little milder and the number of daylight hours is increasing, and with this great news comes the motivation to get involved in outdoor sports - or just to get a little extra exercise. But as Gulotta is only too aware, great care should be taken to get back in shape, no matter what bests we achieved last year.
M&F sat down with the sports medicine doctor to find out how we can protect ourselves and avoid injury as we get fit the New York Mets way.
PeopleImages.com – Yuri A
1. Always warm up
Warming up is one of the most discussed yet underutilized aspects of injury prevention, says the expert. "Warming up is an important part of improving performance and preventing injury," notes Dr. gulotta. "Most experienced Mets players have a foreplay or training routine that includes an element of cardio, and then a muscle activation program that 'warms up' the muscles needed for performance."
2. Be flexible
If you've been enjoying the off-season a little too much, you may have found that sitting has reduced your flexibility and this can lead to injury sooner rather than later. "Flexibility is important to prevent injuries and increase performance," says Gulotta. “However, it is equally important to ensure that the muscles around the joint are strong enough to support that range of motion. Having the power to control a joint throughout its range of motion is what we call "owning that motion." Adolescent baseball players often have a lot of flexibility, but they don't have the core strength to control that flexibility."
Gulotta says building strength around the core and focusing on flexibility through stretching and functional exercises will help protect joints like elbows and shoulders. And when it comes to elbows and shoulders, he's one of the most knowledgeable doctors in the field, serving as Head of the Shoulders and Elbows Unit at the HSS Sports Medicine Institute. This sports scientist has spent a lot of time researching why throwing a ball can be a dangerous task.
"The overhead throw isn't a natural movement for the shoulder," he says. “Our shoulders were made in such a way that when we walk, our arms swing at our sides. They weren't made for throwing a ball over your head. Therefore, the forces acting on the shoulder and elbow during the throwing motion put them at risk of injury. Recently, players have gotten bigger and stronger, and the training techniques are so good that they can generate tremendous power. Because of this, we regularly see Major League Baseball pitchers throw high
90 km/h. This extra force puts the stabilizing ligaments and muscles around the shoulder and elbow at risk of injury.”
3. Focus, don't overtrain
"Overtraining can lead to wear and tear, which over time can lead to injury," says Gulotta. “Remember, baseball players don't train specifically to build muscle. They train to improve their performance. Your performance improves through gains in strength, but also through gains in core stability, flexibility, explosiveness, and hand-eye coordination. Your exercise program takes all of these things into account.
The other part is that they focus on functional movement exercises that mimic the activities they need to perform in a game. These exercises work multiple joints and muscles. This not only improves performance in the long term, but also avoids overtraining individual parts of the body through isolated strengthening exercises, such as e.g. B. Bench press.
4. Understand the mechanics
"Shoulders and elbows are different joints," explains Gulotta. “The shoulder is a ball joint while the elbow is a hinge joint. However, both joints must be stable to throw a ball. For the shoulder, the most important stabilizers are the labrum (a type of cartilage) and the rotator cuff. The elbow is stabilized by the way your bones of the humerus and ulna connect together, as well as the ligaments.
The main stabilizing ligament of the elbow is the ligament on the inside of the elbow called the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Injuries can occur when these joints begin to lose stability, either from extreme exertion throwing hard or from wear and tear over time. So we see tears of the labrum and rotator cuff in the shoulder, as well as stress fractures and spurs of the bone and tears of the UCL in the elbow.”
5. Use resistance bands for long-term victory
"Resistance bands are a great way to strengthen the shoulder because they allow you to work in different positions and ranges of motion," explains Gulotta. "For example, a great exercise for a baseball player is to work on strengthening internal rotation and external rotation with the arm in the 90/90 position overhead. This position mimics throwing a ball overhead and helps the athlete work on strengthening and stabilizing the shoulder throughout the movement required to throw. In other words, resistance bands allow athletes to gain strength in all functional ranges of motion.
6. Get the right balance
"Deconditioning (during off-season) is real and puts athletes at risk of injury as they begin to prepare for the season again," shares Gulotta. “However, 12 months of consistently intense training, especially for pitchers, can also be bad. Most athletes reduce their workload for about two months in the offseason. They retain their flexibility and core strength during this time. You will also stick to a nutritional program. This allows them to maintain their condition, but also to recover. This relative rest period is necessary to prevent attrition injuries and should be observed at all levels, especially in adolescents. About six to eight weeks before the spring training announcement, the players start to intensify their own training. They start doing more sport-specific activities like throwing or hitting. This is all a gradual process that continues throughout spring training. Perhaps the greatest risk of injury is building up training too quickly.”
7. Hurt? Don't just pick up your ball and run home
"There are several exercises that can be performed without affecting the injured structure," says Gulotta. “Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training (using a pulmonary cuff) is another way athletes can maintain some strength while recovering from an injury. However, a doctor should be consulted to develop a safe training strategy to recover from an injury.”
Here's how to stay ready this spring
With some final thoughts on staying in the game this spring, Gulotta summarizes the lessons we can all learn from coaching baseball players:
- In the off-season, take time to rest so your body can recover
- Participate in a warm-up that activates the muscles you will be using during a workout or game
- Work on flexibility but also strength in different ranges of motion to ensure the joint can be stabilized in all positions. This Is How You Can “Own That Range Of Motion”
- Resistance bands are a great way to perform functional strengthening that mimics the actions required to play a specific sport. They also allow you to strengthen yourself in different positions.
- drink enough It's the number one nutritional "hack" that can help prevent injury.
See you on the field!