Should Pitchers Ice After A Game? What About Practice? Is Icing Bad?
The topic of icing comes up a lot. Many pitchers do it. It's not bad for you. And it's not dangerous or anything like that either. I didn't ice down after games, though. A lot of pro pitchers that I played with didn't actually ice.
I feel you should only ice after a pitching performance if your arm is painfully sore -- a point, of course, you should not reach. Think about this: Would you ice your legs after doing a bunch of squat thrusts in the weight room? Would you ice your legs after multiple sets of wind sprints across the outfield?
Probably not, right?
But that's just it. Pitching is ultimately no different than any of these kinds of workouts. The muscle fibers in the arm incur microscopic tears from the repeated throwing motion just like a your leg muscles incur tiny microscopic tears when doing squats or sprints. Your body then rushes nutrient rich blood to repair these tiny tears and to flush out any toxic lactic acid (the by-product of repeated anaerobic, namely, short bursts of energy).
This repairing of the muscle is what ultimately makes the muscle stronger. In your case, it's what enables a you to increase strength and velocity in your throwing arm. However, applying ice to your arm actually impedes your body's ability to ability to pump nutrient rich blood to the "stressed" area to flush out the lactic acid that has built up during your performance. That's because by nature, ice slows down a liquid's ability to flow freely. As a result, you're slowing down your recovery time, not speeding it up as you might have thought.
Ice after a pitching performance if your arm is really sore. In this case alone, the application of ice will lessen your immediate pain because ice numbs the nerve endings. But know that it will take longer for you to recover because the movement of nutrient rich blood to repair those tiny microscopic tears has been greatly reduced.
If you do ice, always place a towel or T-shirt over the area prior to placing the ice on location. Ice for no more than 20 minutes, and never ice before or during a game.