Is Icing Your Arm Good For Pitchers

If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, from Little League to the Big Leagues, you’ve probably seen the pitcher icing their elbow and/or shoulder after they pitch.

Baseball has changed a lot in the advancement of data and sports science, so the question becomes ‘how beneficial is it to ice after you pitch’?

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ICE?

First thing is first, let’s understand what icing does and why pitchers use it. Icing any part of your body does two things:

  1. Reduces swelling & inflammation by slowing blood flow to the area being iced.
  2. Increases blood flow to the area after, bringing healing nutrients to repair the muscle.

When you throw, you damage the muscles involved just like you would when you lift weights—breaking down the muscle so it is stronger when it rebuilds and rejuvenates. Reducing inflammation is the primary purpose of icing your arm after pitching. However, elongated icing can hinder recovery time by limiting blood flow. Therefore, you should only ice 15-20 minutes at a time and then let blood flow back to the injured area to provide nutrients to the muscle.

TOP 3 REASONS TO ICE

Everyone’s body and arm respond differently after pitching, so it is imperative to listen to body and pay attention to how you feel after you pitch. Some pitchers need longer rest and others can bounce back quickly. The three reasons that pitchers should ice are:

 

#1) REDUCE INFLAMMATION – Inflammation is like a slow-burning fire in your muscles that you cannot see or feel. "It's a smoldering process that injures your tissues, joints, and blood vessels, and you often do not notice it until significant damage is done," says Dr. Andrew Luster, of the Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. For pitchers, the damage might show up as muscle fatigue, soreness, broken blood vessels, and worn-down tissue.

 

However, inflammation plays a key role in the healing process, so it is not all that bad. "The goal is to keep inflammation in check and not let the fire run wild," says Dr. Luster. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/playing-with-the-fire-of-inflammation)

 

#2) A STEP TO RECOVERY – Being a pitcher you are limited to the number of times you can pitch because the recovery time it takes to recover from the torque & stress you put on your body in a game. When you ice, blood quickly rushes to the cold area bringing blood flow that contains healing nutrients and driving away lingering waste products in the muscle like lactic acid. Icing helps stimulate blood flow that helps repair the damaged muscle & tissues around the joint.

 

#3) REDUCE PAIN – There is no research that proves icing reduces injuries, but it is a great way to relieve pain and mitigate soreness in the muscle after pitching. Reducing muscle pain and soreness is key to getting back into your throwing routine for your next start on the mound.

ICE IT RIGHT

You should ice immediately once the game is over, right after a bullpen in practice, or after an intense long-toss session. Icing to reduce acute inflammation works best if it’s within 30-60 minutes of the trauma or intense exertion.

After that 60-minute window, the body needs to start repairing the muscle by way of blood flow. This gives you enough time to do some light resistant band exercises before icing the muscle down.

If you’re not in college or don’t have a trainer on-call during games, then a great way to always have ice with you is our Cryosleeve for pitchers. It stays cold up to an hour and has 360-degree compression.

 

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