The Myth of Baseball Pitchers Icing: Why Ice is Not Nice

I wrote on this blog not long ago about the myth that baseball pitchers should static stretch before they throw. Not only has that proven to be the cause of more shoulder injuries, but the study I posted has proven that static stretching prior to throwing also reduces velocity. Yet, you will see thousands of Little League, high school, and college pitchers static stretching using the “buddy” system prior to throwing.

Most informed baseball people know that the shoulder joint is already loose and doesn’t need more stretching. More stretching is what we try to avoid by doing exercises, which help with stability so that humerus (upper arm bone) seats itself within the shoulder socket. Otherwise, the unstable shoulder will eventually become weak and injured. Thus, the reason for rotator cuff exercises. The shoulder needs stability.

Another huge myth today in baseball pitching is the administration of ice after pitching. You can see this being done at the Major League level after many games. So, if icing is good enough for Major League pitchers, then it must be good enough for all pitchers. Right? Wrong!

After all, you can actually purchase devices that nicely attach around the shoulder and elbow so that icing is more convenient and comfortable. When we first started nearly 10 years ago, we, too, sold those icing devices but have not done so for at least seven years. Why? Because we did some research that proves that icing the pitchers arm does not help the arm recover, but actually slows down the recovery process.

Icing the Arm Inhibits the Natural Healing Process

You see, what happens when ice is initially administered is it brings blood to the site where it is applied so, for the pitcher, this would be to the shoulder or elbow. Blood is good because it provides healing. However, as the ice stays on, the blood can no longer get into the area, so after a few minutes of icing, the area is prevented from beginning the natural healing process. Icing stops an immune response, which is healing.

Why, then, do Major League pitchers ice? Because they do not know or understand this. Yet, now there are several Major League trainers who will not allow their pitchers to ice, just like most would not allow their pitchers to static stretch.

So the fact is that “ice is not nice.”

The “First Pitch Strike, Warm-up, and Recovery Program” for the pitching arm was introduced in Nov. 2011

This is the only scientifically designed pre-game or pre-bullpen warm-up program that warms up every muscle in the arm that is involved in pitching. Then, you have the added benefit of a three-minute program that pitchers do after pitching that helps the pitching arm recover faster, so the pitcher is ready for his next game. I call this simple program “arm insurance.”

Watch how many kids you will see icing their arm this year under the guidance of well-intended but misinformed parents or coaches. This actually sets them back and slows their arm from recovering.

So remember this: Ice is not nice.

The key to improving pitching velocity is to recognize the mechanical faults that prevent pitchers from developing momentum and force or preventing forces from efficiently transferring from the body to the arm.

Improving pitching velocity is simple when you understand how to videotape, what to look for and then how to make changes that stick for the long term.

But, remember this, there are no secrets to pitching improvement. Just sound sports science principles that we apply to pitching that just make common sense. No magic spoken here.

Our Pitching DVDs teach parents as an easy way to help their sons use their bodies to pitch instead of just their arms. Not only does this improve velocity but reduces the risk of arm injuries. We also teach them proper conditioning.

“I had spent several hundred dollars on a pitching coach who was leading my son down the path to ruin. He embraced every failed philosophy and technique you’ve identified – long toss, towel drills and more drills ad nauseum. My son’s skills were deteriorating. When I found your website and read your report, I sense intuitively your words had merit and deserved further study.”
Mark Smith, Downers Grove, Ill.