Preventing Elbow Injuries for Javelin Throwers
Throwing the Javelin could just be one of the most awesome activities in all of sports. It is the perfect combination of art form, science, technique, and overall body power.
Unfortunately, it is also an event that can cause you substantial pain, especially in the throwing elbow.
More than ever, javelin throwers are going under the knife in order to repair the ulnar collateral ligaments with a process called Tommy John surgery than ever before. As the stats rise, if there is ever to be a turn-around, then there needs to be some changes in the way we approach preparation for the event.
In the following article, I will offer suggestions that Javelin throwers can put into action in order to avoid the pain of elbow injuries. As you read, take note of the repeated theme of change – changing habits, changing mind sets, and changing your approach to your event, for changing what you do before or after your Javelin throws can make all the difference toward how you feel weeks, months, or even years down the line, in addition to help improve your peformance.
and expecting different results
- Albert Einstein
Change #1 – Get Your Technique Dialed In Right
Below are many important actions that can have a tremendous effect on your performance with the Javelin as well as your ability to stay healthy. However, all of them are reduce to mere words on a computer screen if your technique is not correct in the Javelin throw.
It pays to learn the technique from a good teacher. Take note that this does not have to be someone who threw the Javelin like a superstar in high school. It also doesn’t have to be someone who has been a coach for 6 decades.
What you want is somebody that knows the technique, who has helped others improve their technique, and someone who has helped produce many healthy and high performing throwers.
Find these people, buy their video or attend their seminar, and put their advice into action. Remember, all of the ancillary practices that follow get erased if when you make your throws your technique is poor.
Change #2: Approach to Warm-up
Does this sound familiar to you?
You get off the bus at 10AM. Javelin throw starts at 2PM. You get off the bus, find a nice place to hang out with your teammates. When 1:50 rolls around, you take off your sweats, do some arm circles, and you’re ready for the first throw.
If this is how you get ready for your throws, you are asking for trouble. Your elbow is a ticking time bomb and it is just a matter of time until the UCL or some other tissue in your arm fails.
Instead, at least 30 minutes prior to your start time, you must begin doing a full-body general warm-up, involving things such as bodyweight squats, lunges, and push-ups, followed by transitional core work, and moving into an upper body focus as well. This kind of full-body approach to your warm-up gets the blood circulating throughout your body, raises the core temperature, and begins stimulating your central nervous system. All three of these things are a must if you want to perform your best in any athletic endeavor.
You’re not done yet.
Up until now, everything has been general, just warming up the body globally. Now it is time to focus on that arm of yours – your bread and butter.
Get your hands on about 6 feet of surgical tubing. You can buy it from pharmacies and places like that, or you can get it off amazon for cheap.
First, start off with some movements for the shoulders, such as External Rotations and some pull-aparts. Next, hook one end of the band to a fence and perform some internal rotations and then move on to some direct elbow work.
The resistance of the tubing will be very light. This is perfect, because the elbow movements will be don every slowly and deliberately. You want to hit some nice slow curls and some tricep extensions. By going slowly, you not only begin exciting the biceps and triceps muscles, but you also wake up the stabilizer tissues of the elbow and get blood flowing through there as well.
Finally, before you put your tubing away, work the forearm and elbow area. Again, go nice and slow and control the movement at all times. You will want to perform as full of a range of motion as possible throughout pronation (turning the palm toward the ground) and supination (turning the palm toward the sky). Also, move the wrist around in a circle against the band resistance to get the wrist and hands ready to go as well.
For a quick demonstration of these tubing drills, check out the video below.
Shoulder & Forearm Specific Warm-up Drills with Tubing
Important: Once you are done with your warm-up, don’t just stand around in shorts and a tank top. That will only make you lose the valuable warm-up you just attained. Instead, throw a nice loose sleeve over your elbow and get your sweats back on. In fact, don’t even take those off. Keep them on, especially during the chillier days of the spring. This will keep the core temperature up and make your warm-up more efficient.
The sleeve you place over your elbow should be tight enough to stay in place. It does not have to be some sort of medical sleeve or support sleeve. You can wear those during your throws, if you wish, but for now, just keep the elbow sleeve loose to allow blood to flow in and out and through the arm, instead of causing pooling in the forearm and hand.
Do you think people will say you’re not a “tough guy” if you warm-up? Ignore them. How well do they throw anyway? Are they in pain?
Afraid this is going to tire you out? If you are in shape, it should not. We’re talking 10 to 15 minutes of moving around. Sure, it will get the blood flowing, the heart pumping and your lungs breathing a bit, but if you’re in shape, this warm-up will not get you worn out.
Change #3: Your Recovery Practices
One of the biggest opportunities that you have as throwers is improving your recovery practices. These are the actions you take from the moment your last throw is done until you go to bed that night. That is a BIG time period, and many do not use this time to their advantage in order to begin recovering from their throws and allowing their bodies to heal up for the next practice or competition. Here are some things to take action on.
1. Immediately Cover the Elbow and Upper Body
Just like how we used a loose sleeve to keep the elbow warm between the warm-up and our live throws, we should keep the blood flowing well to the elbow once we are done throwing as well. Again, it doesn’t have to be a tight wrap, in fact a towel works great.
If you have another throwing event coming up, then keep the area covered until it comes time to get warmed up for that as well. If your throwing for the day is complete, however, then move on to the next step.
2. Stretch out the Lower Arms
Once your throws are done, and with the elbow still covered to keep the soft tissues warm and pliable, go into your post-throws stretching routine. You must include plenty of work for the forearm flexors, extensors, and rotator muscles. By keeping these muscles loose and limber they will help protect the integrity of the elbow joint. If they get tight, they can cause further issues, imbalances, and make recovery more difficult.
Since the whole forearm is used, be sure to stretch all of the muscles mentioned, but perform the flexor stretches first and last. They have the tendency to get too built up quicker than the rest of the muscles of the forearm, so they need the most corrective attention.
3. Apply Ice
As soon as possible, wrap the elbow in some ice. Often ice application is thought of as something that is only done for injured players, but that is a myth. All throwers, once their throws are done for the day should ice. For most people, 15 or 20 minutes of ice is good. This will help to reduce swelling in the area and reduce the effects of inflammation or possible swelling.
NOTE: If you will be in another event after the Javelin, it is not necessary to ice right away. Icing the arm can cause issues for warming the arm back up for the next throws. Instead, wait until all throws are over for the meet.
4. Fuel Up
You are an athlete. That means you need to treat yourself like a well-oiled machine. Start putting high quality fuel into your body like good lean protein sources, fruits, and vegetables, especially green leafy veggies. Get this fuel into your body as soon as possible following your throws so your body can start the rebuilding process.
Protein shakes or meal replacements are not a bad idea either. They can be mixed beforehand and kept in a cooler with ice, and make for a quick, tasty treat after a day of throwing.
Get good quality food into your system. Pizza or fast food, despite their great taste, do not offer the same kind of replenishing and rebuilding nutrients and compounds your body needs. Scrap them for wiser choice foods.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Your body is nearly 70% water. Between traveling on a bus, sitting around in the sun and wind, competing, and waiting around, there is the opportunity to get highly dehydrated. Combat this dehydration and jump start your recovery by staying hydrated.
Hopefully your coach can provide water or sports drinks, but if not, then throw them into your cooler or equipment bag so you have something to drink after your throws. (Of course, drinking throughout the day is smart as well).
Change #4: Bullet-Proof the Elbow
It’s also imperative to strengthen the elbows and forearms correctly. When this area is properly trained, it will resist injury better and you will be able to recover between throwing sessions more quickly.
Coach Ellis and I are releasing a comprehensive DVD on Grip and Forearm Training for Throwers, very soon. It includes many different drills that all throwers can use to not only improve their throws, but also keep themselves healthier throughout the season.
Remember the quote at the beginning of the article: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
If you keep doing what everybody before you had done, then you can expect the same results everyone before you has gotten. Break the link in the chain now by changing your approach to your sport.
The Grip Training for Track and Field Throwers DVD will come out soon. Keep your eyes on this site and do not delay in picking it up.
Until then, all the best in your training.
To a Great Season!
What’s up everybody, Happy Thursday!
I can’t believe how fast the days are flying by. Only about 5 weeks now until winter sports practices start up.
Even though the next few months are going to focus on shot put and indoor weight, that doesn’t mean I won’t answer some great javelin questions.
This week I received 2 good javelin questions about the actual implement itself. Not the training or throwing, the actual metal javelin.
I love equipment questions (I sold track equipment for over 7 years) and welcome them to the blog.
So here are two javelin videos. Selecting the proper javelin for an intermediate thrower and getting rust off a steel javelin. Check them out:
Two for the price of 1 which, I guess, is still $0.00
And that is a promise. This blog will always be 100% free. No charge to you. All I ask is that you spread the word to your friends and teammates and coaches. Forward the link to your e-mail list or “Like” this on Facebook.
Let’s turn PrimalATC.com into a site where throwers can come to get the most up to date information possible. Let’s HELP other throwers all around the world become better.
Coach Matt Ellis
Well, it’s time to stir the pot a little bit here. For many years, Olympic lifting has been used by throws coaches all around the world to build explosive strength and power. And for good reason. It works.
But when you are working with younger athletes and only have a short window of opportunity to teach them how to lift properly you might not have the time.
Teaching how to do the Olympic lifts CORRECTLY takes time. Time you might not have during a very busy and short track season.
You can train power and explosion with basic barbell lifts too. Check out the video below to learn more.
When you have a properly mapped out training program, you will start your main strength lifts with lighter weights. Moving these lighter weights as fast as you possibly can while under control will build up your strength and power.
It will also increase your hand speed and reaction time. All things you need to throw farther.
If you need a great training program to get you in better shape for the fast approaching track season, click here <————-
If you want to continue following the same old training program with little results, get ready to have a difficult season this year.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Coach Matt Ellis
What’s up everyone,
Sorry for the lack of blog updates lately. Things here at Primal are growing fast and I have been putting a lot of focus into getting the newer athletes caught up and ready for their winter season.
You should be doing the same. If you need help, that’s what I am here for. Please make sure you ask your questions and I will get them answered here on the blog or in the weekly newsletter. Make sure you sign up for the newsletter if you haven’t done so already.
One question I get a lot has to do with what I call the “magic bullet for throwers.” People will e-mail me asking for that one thing to make them a better thrower. What’s that one thing they can do to become a better thrower. What’s one thing they should improve upon in the weight room to become a better thrower.
The answer? There is no one thing. The best thing you can do to improve your technique is to improve everything little by little. Here’s why:
If you take form and technique completely out of the equation, there are certain “ingredients” that make up a great thrower. Certain things like height and arm length, etc can’t be improved. The things that can be changed are strength, power, explosion, vertical leap, conditioning, agility, balance, coordination, footwork, speed (running speed), flexibility, size (weight), and quickness (reaction time).
If you put the majority of your efforts into increasing just one of those things, the others will take a hit and your throw won’t see much improvement. At the same time, if you continue to improve on what you are already really good at, your throw won’t see much improvement.
For example, if you spend three months trying to increase your squat and forget to train your speed, footwork, and balance, your throw won’t see that big of an improvement. Also, if you have really great strength and put all of your focus into further improving your strength, other aspects of your athletic ability will falter because you aren’t actively training them.
This is the best answer I can give. If you ranked all of the “ingredients” I listed above on a scale of 1 – 10 and gave yourself a grade for each, you will have some that are close to 10 and some that are close to 1.
If you want to be a great thrower, you need to get the ingredients that are close to a #1 and try bringing them up. If your vertical leap stinks but you have a 400 pound bench press, focus more energy into box jumps instead of the bench. Adding a few inches to your vertical leap will help your throw a lot more than adding 5 pounds to your bench press.
Hope this makes sense. Improve what you are not good at. It’s really that simple.
If you are in need of improving your strength, explosion, your conditioning, or your grip and need a great program to help you do it, click here
Thanks and keep emailing me those questions.
Coach Matt Ellis
Thank you to everyone who voted for me last night as one of the Fitness Industry’s Top Rising Stars.
I didn’t win, but I did get 17th out of about 60 top names in the fitness industry. Many of these names have been at it a lot longer than me and work at facilities with thousands of members. Cracking the top 20 is a huge honor.
I appreciate your help with this and promise to continue providing all of you with the best track and field throwing and training material possible.
Today’s video is all about speed. Speed is 100% necessary to have longer throws. The faster you can move in the circle or on the javelin runway, the further you can throw, right?
Not necessarily. Check out the video below to learn why too much speed can sometimes be a bad thing.
Speed can sometimes hurt your throw, especially if you are not ready for it. If you are just learning the proper form and technique, adding a lot of speed will throw off your timing, balance, and coordination. Your form will be bad and your throws will suffer.
Make sure to add in speed gradually and don’t get crazy.
Acceleration is the key. The idea is to reach your top speed at the very end of the throw. Start moving at a medium pace, accelerate in the middle of the throw, and finish off the release as fast as you can. Your form won’t be sacrificed and you will have longer, more consistent throws.
In the next 48 hours I will be releasing my new book, “The ULTIMATE Off Season Training Program for Throwers.” I didn’t hold back when I was writing this so I could give you the best information possible on how to get stronger, more powerful, and more explosive for the start of track season.
Indoor track starts up in about 3 months. This is the perfect opportunity to focus your training and get prepared. If you don’t have a plan to get yourself to the top strength and power by track season you need to get a copy of this as soon as it comes out.
How do you find out when it is available? Enter your e-mail address above and you will be put on a list to receive word as soon as the book is available for download.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Coach Matt Ellis
Big thanks for checking out the website today. Today is a very special day for me. Voting has begun to decide who is the top Rising Star in the fitness industry. I was nominated by my friend and mentor Zach Even-Esh. Voting started last night. If you still need to vote, here is the link:
Scroll down until you see my ugly mug and vote for me. From the looks of things, I am the only coach surrounded by a heap of weight loss, bootcamp style trainers. You can vote as many times as you want. Just hit the refresh button and vote again.
So take the day off work, stay home from school, and vote a few thousand times.
On to the blog post for today. Today is the last day covering the prevention of lower back pain in throwers. This is a subject near and dear to my heart because I suffered with low back pain throughout my entire track and field career.
On day 1, you learned about the causes of back pain. Day 2 covered how to stretch the affected areas. Day 3 you visited with my chiropractor and former javelin thrower, Dan Denette.
Today is all about getting the hamstrings, low back, and hips stronger. In this video I cover 2 exercises that you can do after your warm up but before any heavy lifting or throwing to improve your low back health. Check it out.
There you have it. Improved flexibility and strength in the hamstrings, hips, and low back with just 2 exercises. Try these out today and let me know what you think.
This week I will be releasing a new book designed specifically for throwers. This book is 60 pages of training and conditioning information with a full 13 week training template that you can follow to maximize your strength gains.
It is in the final editing stages.
Just like the last big giveaway, the newsletter recipients will get the first crack at this. Make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you get first dibs on this great off-season training book. The sign-up form is at the top of this webpage.
Coach Matt Ellis
Happy Monday. I hope you all had a great weekend and are pumped up for another great week of throwing and training.
Football is on TV and that can only mean one thing: Indoor track season is right around the corner.
In just about 3 months, you will be attending your first track meets and competing against other throwers.
If you have been reading this blog, viewing the videos, and practicing all summer, you will have no problem.
If, like 99% of throwers out there, you sat on your butt all summer and did nothing, good luck to you. Hopefully you don’t have to throw against a committed athlete who trained all summer and has the desire to win at all costs.
Today’s blog continues our discussion of lower back pain for throwers. Today I visit my chiropractor for an adjustment and a short interview. WATCH THIS! This is very important and will help your perform at your best and be a healthier athlete.
As you can see, nothing I have written in the past few days has had anything to do with fixing. It is all about PREVENTING. Just like doing preventive maintenance on your car or on your teeth, preventive steps are needed to keep your back healthy and pain free.
I know, I know. Your back doesn’t hurt now so why go through the trouble?
I said the same thing a few years ago right before I got badly hurt. You need to take precautions. Get adjusted. Find a professional to help you get healthy.
If NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, and other professional athletes use chiropractors to stay healthy, you should too.
If you are in the Boston area, you need to check out Denette Family Chiropractic. Dr. Dan and Dr. Kris are the best.
Check back in tomorrow to learn three of my favorite exercises to strengthen your hamstrings, hips, and lower back.
Coach Matt Ellis
Alright guys and girls, it’s Friday. Hope you have a great weekend. I have some things for you to try this weekend to help you move better and feel better.
Yesterday you read about lower back pain. It’s something that happens to almost every thrower during their careers.
And yesterday you watched a video explaining why. Flexibility is the key factor to preventing lower back pain and increasing lower back health.
You see, the lower back, hips, and hamstrings are all connected. They all work together as one unit. If one isn’t working correctly or can’t get in the right position, the others will pick up the slack, wear out faster, and get hurt.
That’s just the way it works.
Today’s video is all about getting the hamstrings, hips, and lower back more flexible. Check it out. Use these techniques to get more flexible and healthier.
There you have it. On Monday, I will hit you with Part 3. Part 3 is all about strengthening the hips, hamstrings and lower back to help make you more resilient and further prevent injury. So make sure you check out yesterdays post again and tune back in on Monday.
Have an awesome weekend. Go out and throw and enjoy the great weather. Let me know any questions you have about training or your form and technique and I will get them answered for you here on the blog.
Coach Matt Ellis
I can think back to my throwing career and to the injuries I had during that time. I am sure if you have ever been injured, you know what it feels like.
Injuries are awful. The pain hurts but not being able to throw or train can sometimes be worse.
One of the most common injuries with throwers (something that still bothers me to this day) is lower back pain. Sometimes it is a mild sprain and sometimes it can turn into a herniated disc or even require surgery.
Surprisingly, the number one reason I see low back pain in the throwers I coach has very little to do with the lower back. Many times, it is inflexible hamstrings and immobile hips that lead to lower back pain.
The reason? The lower back, hips, and hamstrings are all connected and work together. If one part breaks down or is not working correctly, the other parts will take over and wear out faster.
Think of it like a car. If you have a car with a bad gasket it might use too much oil. If you don’t keep adding oil, something vital to the engine might break down. If that breaks down, the whole car is out of commission.
The same is true for your body. If you have weak or inflexible hamstrings, they won’t work correctly. This means your lower back will take over. If you continue to use your lower back too much, you will eventually get hurt.
Check out the video below to learn more about improving your back health.
There you have it. Step one is teaching yourself how to hinge correctly. Tomorrow you will be able to watch step two, getting the hamstrings, hips, and lower back healthier and more flexible. On Monday, I will wrap up with step 3, getting the hamstrings, hips, and lower back stronger.
Keep checking back for more. This weekend I will have an exclusive offer for all of my newsletter recipients. If you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter, make sure you do it now. The form is on the right. Just enter your e-mail and you will get on the list and your two free gifts.
Coach Matt Ellis
Happy Wednesday everybody,
If you haven’t done so already, please read this post. I am honored by this nomination. More details are coming and I will get you all the links and information as I learn more.
On to today’s post. You know, every so often a new throwing sensation hits the web that gets people talking. It could be a new style of throwing or a young phenom who is breaking all the records.
Typically it is a video that gets forwarded around and posted on all the message boards and Facebook. I remember a few years ago it was a girl who threw shot put out of a cartwheel maneuver. It was crazy to watch but the girl had a good idea.
Recently I received an e-mail from a coach who was asking about the technique of a girl named Avione Allgood. I had never heard of her or saw videos so I took to the internet to learn more.
I found one video of Avione throwing shot. Her technique is a little different but you can’t argue that it works and allows her to launch the ball.
This coach who e-mailed me stated he was considering teaching this style to one of his athletes and wondered what I thought. He also wondered if I though this style would allow her to have long tern success or if it was limited.
Check out the video below for my response and a little lesson on sticking to the basics.
So there you have it. You can see why this athlete is stirring such a buzz in the throwing world. Her technique is a little different but all the basic building blocks of a solid throw are there.
She accelerates her body and the ball. The shot stays at a smooth increase all the way from the back of the circle to the release. Her power position is solid and she has great footwork.
Very solid technique from a great thrower. No wonder why the ball goes so far!
Now, will this technique be able to get her to her full potential? I don’t think so.
I don’t think it is as solid of a technique as the rotational or the glide. I wouldn’t suggest anyone stop their training and do a 180 and start learning this style.
This style works for her because she has solid mechanics and she has the fundamentals of the technique down pat.
I’m not going to say it’s wrong or right. It works well for her, so she should keep doing it.
Check back in tomorrow where I will have a new video on lower back injuries and how to prevent them. Make sure you “Like” Primal Athlete Training Center on Facebook and let your friends, teammates, and coaches know this is the place to come to have your throwing and training questions answered on a daily basis.
Coach Matt Ellis