I am sure almost all of you have iced your arms after pitching at one point in your career. You may have been told to do this by a coach, trainer, teammate, etc.
It is a common belief that icing a pitcher’s arm after an outing will help prevent injuries and speed up the recovery time.
However, this is not entirely true. Icing may in fact inhibit the recovery process.
When ice is applied to a tired shoulder, the blood flow is slowed, and the delivery of nutrients to the shoulder area is hindered. After a pitcher throws, the shoulder is in need of repair.
Like any muscle in the body, the shoulder muscles break down when used and must be rebuilt before they can be used at full potential again.
The body uses blood to transport nutrients to the worn out muscles so they can be rebuilt. If ice is applied to the shoulder, these nutrients take longer to reach the shoulder and stall the healing process.
You may be asking yourself why you see the professional pitchers icing their shoulders after a game.
One reason is that ice is good when there is shoulder pain. Pain is different than fatigue. If there is pain, there is a good chance there is inflammation, and the ice will reduce this swelling. It is smart to ice the shoulder only when there is pain after throwing.
A good example to put this into perspective is to treat the shoulder as any other muscle in the body. After you do bicep curls, do you normally ice your biceps? Of course not! Are your biceps sore after a work out?
Most likely, yes they are. But there is a difference between soreness and pain. The key is being able to know what you are feeling.
So what is a good alternative to icing?
When your arm is tired after throwing, one of the best things you can do is run. I personally will run several foul poles immediately after I pitch, and then I will run a few miles on the treadmill the day after.
This helps circulate the blood throughout the body and through the shoulder, delivering the much needed nutrients to where they are needed the most.
The next time you finish pitching, don’t necessarily grab the ice bag. Do some light running the day of and the following day, and see if you feel any better.
Icing your arm will inhibit the body’s natural healing process, and will slow down your recovery time.
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