Shoulder Problems

Hi guys, I have a quick question pertaining shoulder problems. I’m a rising sophomore in college and have only been pitching since mid-Feb. I got to school and with only 7 healthy pitchers (5 injured) and 46 games to play, they needed a few more guys and at 6’3", 220 and a good arm from 3rd, they gave me a shot. I transitioned somewhat well, though I had only pitched once before in my life (my freshman year in HS). I started off throwing an 82-83 MPH fastball, the worst curve I’ve ever seen, and a circle-change that did nothing and sat at about 81. Fast-forward to the end of April. I had developed a fastball that sat around 87, topping at 89, a solid two-seemer with a lot of down (almost a sinker) at 84, a “hammer curve”, and a split-change that was in the high-70s. I had also developed a case of shoulder tendonitis, which hasn’t gone away. The weird thing is that it tends to be very tight and somewhat painful when I first start throwing, but as I loosen up and start throwing in the bullpen it goes away. The day after I throw it hurts like hell.

I’ve been doing some shoulder exercises (3 lb. weights, front raises, 45 degree raises, thumb-down, and lateral raises) and using the TheraBands for internal and external rotations. It feels fine for internal but hurts for external. Our workout program also has us doing dumbbell chest presses, and I can feel a little twinge when doing that. Our trainer says it’s because I’ve never pitched before and I’ve gained close to 6 MPH on my fastball, and that as long as I continue to take care of my shoulder, it will eventually be fine. But it’s been over a month and it’s still bothering me - I’m worried I’m not doing the right things to help it heal, or that there’s a more serious injury behind it.

Sorry for the novel, but I’d appreciate any insight or suggestions. Thanks a lot.

Do you have a video of yourself throwing? I ask because I believe pain like this can be related to a mechanical problem. Specifically, taking the elbows above and behind the shoulders.

Have you been to an M.D.?

Where exactly do you feel the pain? Front or back of your shoulder? If I had to guess, I’d say you were feeling the pain in the front of your shoulder.

Just noticed this line.

When doing bench presses, do your elbows go behind your back? If so, then that could be the cause of your problem.

When doing bench presses (or pushups), you never want the elbows to go behind your back. That means you shouldn’t take the bar all the way down to your chest when doing a bench press or take your chest all the way down to the floor when doing push-ups.

Bench presses can also cause a muscle imbalance and lead to problems with the muscles in the back of your shoulder.

Thanks for the response Chris. As for the mechanics, by shoulder going back and up, do you mean like Mark Prior? As I’m sitting here, I can’t really tell if my elbow does that. I’d like to say “no,” but it’s difficult to tell without a video. I’ll try and get one to check it out.

Oh, and the pain is in the front of my shoulder.

And thanks for the recommendation on the bench press/push-ups. On push-ups my elbows never go behind my back. However, on the DB Presses, we drop the bells to our armpits, which basically forces our elbow below our back. I’ll start keeping my elbow at a 90 degree angle.

More on the mechanical problem. Now that I think of it, my wind-up, split, and drive is pretty much “by-the-books,” similar to Mark Prior’s. There’s a good chance I squeeze my shoulder blades when I separate which would lead to my elbow going out and back. Any suggestions?

Mark Prior, Anthony Reyes, Dontrelle Willis, and others.

The only way to tell is with a video.

Let me know if this helps.

Just so you know, I’m not a fan of Mark Prior’s mechanics. I think they have a lot to do with his continual injury problems. I do not have high hopes for Anthony Reyes of my Cardinals for similar reasons.

Have you been you my web site and checked out my break-downs of the motions of guys like Maddux, Ryan, Seaver, Gibson, Clemens, and others who had long, relatively injury-free careers…

Chris, thanks. I was actually able to find a picture-by-picture view of my wind-up. I don’t really do anything close to Mark Prior. When I split, I do what Maddux does - the pendulum directly to second base.

My wind-up is actually very similar to Maddux’s, at least the first half. I break at the belt, have a little more reverse rotation, bring the ball above my elbow and back. I’ve been working on the shoulder tilt at release to get more movement on my fastball and change, but as you can probably imagine, he does it slightly better than I do. :wink:

It probably has to do with the bench pressing. That or could it have anything to do with the amount I’ve been throwing compared to previous years?


I’d be glad to take a look at that picture by picture breakdown if you want to send it to me at

This probably has something to do with it.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that guys like Ryan, Seaver, and Clemens were all freaks about conditioning (and if you read Seaver’s book you’ll find that he didn’t use very heavy weights).

I had the same thing with both shoulders after lifting pretty heavy the past couple months. I took a week off benching (BB or DB). The next week I did lighter weights and also worked in some pushups (4 count down, 2 count up). The problem was gone in a couple weeks.

You also might want to focus more on shoulder strengthening excercises during the offseason. Weak shoulders can throw off the balance when you bench and lead to injuries.

Thanks for the replies, guys. After less than a week of a few different shoulder exercises, lifting properly (no more elbow-behind-back BS), and constant throwing to “condition” my arm, it feels a ton better. As a “newcomer” to the pitching world I still have a lot of learning to do, but I’m at least working on how to keep the arm in shape. Thanks again.