I'm a semi-professional pitcher for a farm league with hopes of making it to the next level. I've been reading about shoulder problems in pitchers. I'd like to do everything I can to avoid any. What do you suggest?

Overuse injuries are a worry for any throwing athlete. Long-term effects of throwing include changes in the stabilizing structures around the shoulder joint. This puts the athlete at increased risk of injury.

Stiffness of the soft tissues around the joint is needed to protect the shoulder. Stiffness restrains the joint and helps prevent subluxation or dislocation. A lax joint can allow the head of the humerus to slip out of the joint socket.

The repetitive motion of a baseball pitcher does change the way the joint moves, especially the amount of external rotation that is present. A recent study at the University of Florida showed that this altered rotational pattern doesn't affect the joint's passive restraining mechanism. That’s good news!

If you do have a loss of the natural protective joint stiffness at the end range of motion, you may need a specific exercise program. A physical therapist can help you with this. Motion will be tested (quantity and quality). Then a specific program of exercises can be suggested. The goal of muscle strengthening is to increase joint stiffness and reduce the risk of injury.