Every organization – whether it be an entire league, team, or tournament, should have established rules and guidelines to ensure players have the best chance to build and maintain healthy arms.
Some of the biggest factors that lead to arm injury/fatigue are: 1) lack of conditioning the arm prior to the season 2) no arm recovery program 3) overuse and no rest period.
Condition the arm (4-6 weeks)
In the conditioning phase we want to build a strong foundation for the arm to maintain during the season. The most important time to build-up the arm is during the off-season. The arm is able to build endurance, health, and strength due to less demands of game play.
Stretch out phase (2-3 weeks)
In the stretch out phase you should play a relaxed game of catch that focuses on building arm flexibility and range of motion. Players should put plenty of arc on each throw and extend out as far as the arm feels comfortable throwing. There should not be any aggressive throwing or a lot of exertion in this phase. You could play catch every day or every other day 3-4 times a week.
The key is to "listen" to your arm. Throw to a distance that feels comfortable each day. There is no set time limit or certain distance.
Pull down phase (2-3 weeks)
If the arm feels good and healthy after the stretching phase players can continue to the pull down phase. If they are not ready they can continue the stretch out phase as needed.
In the pull down phase players start to work on arm speed and power. The muscles have been stretched and adequately warmed up by playing catch out to a maximum distance where the arm feels good and comfortable. The pull down phase takes control as you come back to your partner (10ft at a time) with the same effort as your peak distance throw. Example, if you stretch out to 300ft and begin to pull down you should use your "300ft" effort on each throw as you come back to your partner. Once you pull down to about 60-80ft your pull down phase should be completed with light catch play. The key is to continue to listen to the arm - some days your arm may want to simply stretch out without pulling down.
At the end of the 4-6 week period your arm should have a solid base for the upcoming season. The base will strengthen throughout the demands of the season and provide for quicker recovery times and less vulnerability to arm injuries.
DAILY WARM-UP & RECOVERY
It is important that prior to any throwing session players perform a daily warm-up that includes exercises to stretch out the arm and activate the muscles in the body. Surgical tubing arm exercises like those found in the Jaeger long-toss program are a great place to start as well as the warm-up series used by Driveline. Recovery is also extremely important to developing a healthy arm. Tubing exercises and plyoball exercises for post-throwing recovery can be found in the Jaeger program and the Driveline program.
It is recommended that baseball players take 3-4 weeks off from competition throwing to allow the arm to rest. Pitchers should be provided proper rest between appearances. Avoid playing baseball all year without a break in the winter months.