Due to the fact that there is a lot of standing around and strategizing, baseball doesn’t always appear to be the most strenuous sport from a physical perspective. But consider the fact that there are 162 games, many of them beginning mere hours after the previous one ended, and that many of the actions these players perform are unnatural.
Just throwing a baseball can put an incredible amount of strain on muscles, ligaments and joints up and down the arm. Now try doing that 200 times in the span of four hours, all while squatting up and down, diving in the dirt to block baseballs thrown by somebody else and staying mentally alert as the veritable on-field captain. And doing it on a nightly basis.
That’s the task at hand for one Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the starting catcher in his first full season with the Red Sox.
Saltalamacchia, 25, has youth on his side as he contends with the rigors of the role. Still, he doesn’t take preparation for granted in keeping his body parts, particularly those muscles and joints, as healthy as can be.
“Just a lot of stretching and staying active,” he said when asked what gets him going before a game, and helps him recover after it. “I bike, stuff like that. I’ve never done a lot besides just lift when we have to lift, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of stretching just to kind of keep the joints active and stretched out.”
Pitchers are the ones usually tied to words like “ligament” and “tendon” and often with dreaded add-ons such as “strain” and “tear.” But Saltalamacchia will be the first to tell you that the guys supporting the pitchers endure just as much, if not more.
“Your whole body hurts,” he said. “Your feet, calves, butt, quads — I mean everything. Your whole body. You’re using your whole body the whole game. You’re throwing the ball back more than the pitcher. He throws the ball 110 times. You’re throwing 110 back to him, plus the bullpen and all that.”
While athletes can over-stress their bodies in the course of an average workday, our favorite players can inspire the rest of us to do something very important for our bone health -– stay active.
“Weight-bearing exercise, in which your bones and muscles work against gravity, helps build and maintain bone mass,” said Dr. Tamara D. Rozental, orthopedic surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. These are exercises in which the feet and legs bear your weight.
“That’s where walking comes in,” she says. “It’s probably the easiest. Running and stair-climbing are also good, as is strength training with weights and weight machines that you find at a gym or health club. But walking for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week is just fine. It works.”
Dr. Rozental notes that bone is living tissue that responds to weight-bearing exercise by becoming stronger. It becomes stronger and denser as it is put under modest stress.
But too much stress means the body will need to recover. Saltalamacchia takes a full month off after the year ends. Then, when his body has ridded itself of the soreness of the season, he gets back at it. Together with his trainer in his hometown of West Palm Beach, Fla., the young backstop begins to increase his workouts in an effort to strengthen all those body parts that get broken down from April to October.
The father of three also makes sure he catches a few winks that are so hard to come by during the year.
“You’ve got to do a lot to take care of your body. Sleep. Get your sleep. Sleep’s about the most important thing.”
That might sound pretty basic, but whatever can help his body recover from a trying campaign is worth doing.
“There’s a lot that goes into catching,” he said.
For more on what you can do to keep bones and joints healthy, visit www.bidmc.org/healthyis.