How Conventional Physical Therapy Failed a College Baseball Pitcher

Written by:
Tyler Joyce
April 16, 2023

I come from a baseball family and more specifically a family of pitchers. My grandfather pitched for the Braves and the Yankees in the 1930’s and 40’s. He stood a lengthy 6 foot 7 inches tall soaking wet. My dad was a 6 foot 5 inch lefty pitcher from Portland, Maine who played one season with the Kansas City A’s. I was a pitcher in high school but an injury to my elbow ended my career before it even began. Then there's my son, Dylan. A lefty pitcher like my dad, he had a lot of success in high school. Although he didn't pursue baseball in college because the coaches said he didn't throw hard enough. Not one coach would take a chance on him, even though he was the youngest pitcher to play in the American Legion World Series and led the entire tournament with accuracy.

Sorry if I’m boring you with my family history. I just love baseball. And, as a physical therapist, I am passionate about helping pitchers get back to the game.

So now let's get into my story about how conventional PT failed a college pitcher.

The year was 2010. I began evaluating a baseball pitcher who came to me after having been sick with some sort of undiagnosed stomach issue. He had lost a bunch of weight and strength at that point. Prior to seeing me, he saw many doctors and specialists to try to figure out what was wrong with his body. He also had a multiple year history of recurring shoulder pain whenever he attempted to throw a baseball.

He told me that he got a full scholarship out of high school to play division I baseball. While playing at this D-1 college he began feeling pain in his shoulder. He tried to pitch through the pain but it continued to worsen.

He went to physical therapy where they focused mainly on his pitching arm and the surrounding muscles. After weeks of rehabilitation and rest, he then attempted to pitch again. But he still had the same sharp pain. So they did some more PT but the pain only got worse.

Then his physician ordered an MRI. Everyone was expecting it to reveal a rotator cuff tear. But it came back negative.

Meanwhile the clock was ticking for him. Because if he couldn't produce, he would lose his full ride.

From all the stress, he ended up getting sick with a stomach issue. He decided to take time off from school to get better. After his stomach improved, he went to a division III school to get back in shape and see if he could make it back up to a D-1 school again. However, as soon as he started to pitch again, the shoulder pain came right back.

Frustrated with the healthcare system, he decided to seek help elsewhere. That's when he discovered Activcore.

At the initial evaluation, I administered a full movement screen of his entire body. Then I did a pain provoking test by having him mimic the throwing motion. As he revved back, it was painful in the front of his shoulder. I suspected that something might be going on with his opposite hip, because of how the transfer of forces goes across the body when pitching a ball. I knew that somewhere along this chain there had to be some deficits.

So I put him onto the Redcord suspension system to test his Back Functional Line. This test consists of single-leg bridge exercises with bungee assistance at the waist. Low and behold, he could hardly lift himself off the table, even with max bungee assistance. When I tested his other hip, he could lift himself rock solid without bungees.

Next I went right into treatment. I gave him extra bungee assistance to help him perform the exercise correctly. The bungee assistance sort of feels like you're floating on water. We did a bunch of repetitions while making it more challenging with every set. Here I am perturbating (shaking) the ropes for additional neuromuscular stimulation:

After fatiguing him out, I had him stand back up to retest his throwing motion. I can still remember the look on his face today, when he exclaimed, “How the hell did you do that… I have no f’ing pain in my shoulder!” He started to cry and you could see him thinking back to all that he had been through with his sickness and (most of all) with his shoulder pain and not being able to pitch. All these emotions rushed through his head in an instant. And just like that his prayers were answered.

I explained to him how our body's inner stabilizing system shuts down in the presence of pain; and how our outer muscles along the chain tighten up and compensate for this loss of stability. It's a process known as neuromuscular de-activation.

My job is to find these dormant muscles and wake them up. It's an approach called NEURAC (NEURomuscular ACtivation). Essentially, by having you perform gentle repeated joint motions in a "zero-gravity" environment, NEURAC tells your brain that it is safe to turn the body's inner stabilizing system back on. It's like turning up a light switch to muscles that went dim from chronic pain and trauma.

After a few NEURAC treatments, he was able to pitch again. But unfortunately it was too late. He never got another chance to play at a D-1 school. Because no one took the time to look beyond his shoulder, this pitcher lost his scholarship and his ability to play baseball.

Are you suffering from pain? Contact me at Activcore Princeton to help you overcome it and get back to living life again.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Tyler Joyce

Co-Founder | Physical Therapist
Tyler Joyce is a 20+ year experienced physical therapist who specializes in helping competitive baseball players and weekend athletes overcome chronic pain and injury through application of the Redcord suspension system. He works at Activcore in Princeton, New Jersey, located just 2 miles from Princeton University.


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