White Sox pitching ace Carlos Rodon starts throwing program to return in 2018
With only 69 1/3 innings over 12 starts in 2017, Chicago White Sox throwing ace Carlos Rodon underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery at the end of the season to determine the cause of the shoulder pain that forced him to miss most of the season. According to the team’s general manager, significant bursitis was found and a debridement of the area was done.
Following nearly four months of physical therapy, the team’s physician cleared Rodon to begin a throwing program to return him to the mound slowly, safely and hopefully by as early as Opening Day or as late as June 1, if his rehabilitation takes a full eight months. What is a throwing program and how will it help the Sox’s southpaw prepare for the upcoming season? Dr. Steven Chudik, a sports medicine specialist who has treated hundreds of athletes in his 15 years of orthopaedic practice, insists his throwing athletes complete a strict throwing program following an injury or surgery to return to play safely.
“Traditional rehabilitation exercises for the shoulder and elbow can increase the strength and endurance, but can’t reproduce the extreme forces and torques seen at the shoulder and elbow during the act of throwing,” explained Dr. Chudik. “Therefore, in order to replicate those forces an athlete has to throw but he/she just can’t start off at full speed or an injury can reoccur,” Dr. Chudik added. According to Dr. Chudik, throwing programs also are used to train in the preseason, maintain during the in- and off-seasons, and return to play after pain or an injury.
The interval programs Dr. Chudik developed are research based and designed by integrating age-specific pitching statistics, field dimensions, performance restrictions, in vitro biomechanical studies, and an understanding of the physiology of healing tissue to provide the safest means for progressive training, or the graded return of an injured pitcher to the mound.
Most throwing programs allow the athlete to increase demands on the throwing arm gradually, progressing from no throwing to throwing at game volume. Dr. Chudik’s interval programs consist of four phases that progressively increase the demands on the throwing arm:
- Return to throwing
- Return to pitching
- Intensified pitching
- Game simulation
Each of Dr. Chudik’s programs have pitchers begin with short throws at 50 percent effort and longer tosses from level ground to build arm strength and endurance (return to throwing). Once a base of long distance throwing is established, the pitcher begins throwing from level ground (return to pitching) eventually advancing to pitching from the mound (intensified pitching).
Furthermore, the pitcher only throws fastballs at self-perceived intensities of 50 percent and 75 percent of maximum effort at the beginning. Off-speed pitches, including curveballs, change-ups and sliders, are incorporated after the pitcher advances to 75 percent of the expected game volume. The pitcher chooses the type of off-speed pitch based on pre-season or pre-injury pitch preference.
“Every throwing program is a little different, but I’m sure the White Sox will be closely monitoring Rodon’s pitch count, distances and mechanics with the program he follows,” said Dr. Chudik. “There are usually specific rules for progression based on soreness, type of injury and program goals that will determine whether Rodon is back by Opening Day, or another date later in the season. Regardless, as fans we just want to see him back in the line-up and performing without pain.”
For a copy of an age-specific baseball or softball throwing program developed by Dr. Chudik, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the ages of the athletes and sport–baseball or softball. Additionally, if you or a family member have shoulder or elbow pain from pitching/throwing, call Dr. Chudik’s office 630-324-0402 to schedule an appointment to be evaluated, or schedule online at stevenchudikmd.com/.