Mar 28, 2017In with the New
In 2016, the Los Angeles Angels suffered a rash of pitching injuries like they had never experienced before. For 2017, the Angels have upped their game. In an effort to stay injury free, they have both increased their sports medicine and strength and conditioning staffs and made changes to their pitchers’ post-game routines.
According to an article from The Orange County Register, the Angels’ 2016 traveling sports performance team consisted of two athletic trainers, a physical therapist, and a strength and conditioning coach. Having a small staff on the road made it hard at times to cover games, while simultaneously making sure each player received the necessary treatment. This year, the team has replaced some old faces, added a third athletic trainer, and hired a staff member who serves as both a physical therapist and a strength and conditioning coach.
“Having more bodies will allow players to get more attention,” wrote Orange County Register Staff Writer Jeff Fletcher. “It also can allow them to have [an athletic] trainer attend to injured players in Anaheim while the team is on the road, rather than shuttling them back and forth from the team’s minor league complex in Arizona. It allows them to have one strength coach on the field running with players while the other is in the [weightroom].”
Along with these new faces come some new ideas. According to Lee Fiocchi, CSCS, recently named Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Angels:
“It’s not about working harder. It’s about working smarter.”
Part of working smarter is changing age-old attitudes about pitchers’ recovery, which typically includes sending them to the ice bath and the stationary bike after an outing. Fiocchi says the increase in blood flow is the key ingredient to recovery after practice or a game, as it flushes waste from the stressed joint into the lymphatic system.
“It’s like a clogged toilet,” Fiocchi explained. “We’re essentially plunging the toilet.”
However, conditioning workouts like the bike mainly increase blood flow to the legs. While some amount of conditioning is important for every player, Fiocchi believes pitchers should instead be more focused on recuperating and maintaining the strength and health of their arms.
Utilizing this philosophy, Fiocchi’s new routine has the pitchers doing exercises that center on increasing blood flow in the shoulder and arm, such as an “arm bar, which is a weighted flexible bar that pitchers shake.”
For pitchers like Garrett Richards, who is recovering after receiving stem cell therapy to repair an injured ulnar collateral ligament, the new approach seems to be working.
“I tried [the new routine] once, and I felt pretty good afterward,” he said. “I’m just going to continue to do things that are going to benefit me.”