Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An Injury Breakthrough

Recovering from a Labrum Tear


Jerry Kreber
Assistant Omaha Central HS Baseball
Associate Scout Cleveland Indians Organization

(This case documentation was motivated by a conversation I just had with a local therapist about one of our pitcher’s throwing weighted balls to improve his throwing velocity. He was against our pitcher throwing them because he had previous elbow and shoulder tendentious. He could offer no studies, research, or evidence to back up his opinion. After getting some time to ponder the issue, I can only hope the therapist will re-evaluate his opinion and look at conclusive evidence through documented studies that weighted balls not only improve velocity, but strength and durability as well.)

In the winter of 1997, I experienced extreme shoulder pain during preseason baseball conditioning. Upon getting my arm examined by a physician, I was diagnosed with having a torn labrum ligament in my shoulder. I had a successful operation in January of 1998. I was instructed not to throw for six weeks. Instead, I was told to focus on the strength and range of motion of my shoulder.

After being sidelined for 6 weeks, I returned to throwing. My arm was definitely not the same. I could not get my humerus rotated smoothly without the joint slipping. It would pop really loud and it really affected my mentality. I was deeply depressed about the situation, but continued my rehabilitation program religiously. Literally, I tried every kind of exercise there was to perform. I used a stretch cord, dumbbell, and free weights. I stretched, ran, and threw the baseball but nothing helped my arm to get back to its original form. Furthermore, my functional strength was at its peak. I had increased all my core lifts including the bench press, squat, and clean and jerk. With all these strength increases, my arm did not get better; it seemed to get worse. I looked like a shot-putter trying to throw a baseball. Even my teammates would comment that my throwing motion looked painful. Before the surgery I was a catcher, after the surgery I moved to first base. Even after six months of rehabilitation, I still could not throw the ball from first base to home plate. The situation was dire. I was very close to quitting.

As a college sophomore, I had undergone surgery to remove a tumor pinched in-between my throwing arm shoulder blade, so that year was lost to injury as well. The surgery was successful and I was fully recovered before the labrum surgery. So as a college junior, I had high hopes before the labrum injury occurred. After almost two years of injuries and my recovery uncertain, I began to have negative thoughts about continuing with baseball. As a last resort during the fall of my senior year of college, I was looking through a magazine and located a set of Worth Weighted Baseballs. I had never heard of them. I always assumed throwing heavy objects caused injury to your arm, but as I looked at them I understood the situation was desperate. I ordered the weighted balls at the end of the 1998 Fall Baseball season.

In early November of 1998, I started throwing the weighted balls with my roommate. Before throwing the balls, I could not throw a baseball on a line over 60 feet. As soon as we started with the 6 ounce ball, I could feel a difference. Then, in the second session, it was like a miracle happened. I started throwing in the afternoon and saw a huge difference. My arm, which prior to the balls could not throw the ball over 60 feet, was launching balls from the left field foul line to the centerfield fence. The distance measured about 250 feet. I stayed out that afternoon until it was dark. I have never been more excited in my life. My roommate and I completed 75% of the program before the snow obstructed our workouts and we had to move inside. I was amazed with the strength of my arm and so were my teammates.

During that 1999 spring season, I was able to stand at home plate and throw the ball out of the park down the left field line, which was approximately 315 feet. I threw the weighted balls every day during our practice warm ups and felt like it gave my arm extra strength and speed. I experienced no pain from the surgery and was able to throw 100% on a daily basis.

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