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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Archive for 'fitness'

It is that time of year where baseball pre-season throwing is ramping up. I am starting to see throwers coming in to my clinic with shoulder and elbow issues. In many cases, injury can be avoided with proper stretching and strengthening as well as effective loading programs.

Pectoralis major/minor and latissimus muscle tightness along with poor scapular control often leads to postural dysfunction and shoulder problems. Improving shoulder mobility and scapular control can reduce injury risk and shoulder strain.

The video below from one of my Functional Fit columns will demonstrate an excellent exercise that can be programmed for every thrower to aid in optimizing shoulder mobility and promoting shoulder health.

I often use this exercise following soft tissue release techniques and in conjunction with thoracic spine extension mobilization on the roller. It is an excellent warm-up and activation exercise.

Click here to read the entire Functionally Fit column.

Over the years, I have tested many different fitness products through my work with Personal Fitness Professional Magazine. I am not paid to promote any products on my site, and this latest review comes after spending the past few weeks using this particular product in the clinic with my patients. I am pleased to bring attention to it because I think it can help with recovery and training.

Recently, the inventor of the HECOstix, Josh Broeker, reached out to me to see if I have had a chance to use his product. Much to my surprise, I was not familiar with it. As a performance physical therapist working with many athletes from various sports and ranging from youth to professionals, I was naturally excited to see the product in action. I am always looking for ways to enhance neurocognitive training and my rehab. Josh was gracious enough to send me a few HECOstix to try out.

For those unfamiliar with the product, see the image of the Red, White and Blue version below:

As I rehab and progress athletes back to sport after injury, implementing tools to improve hand eye coordination, reaction time, cognitive skills and decision making is important prior to sending them back to practice and sport. A few of the really cool features I like about this product include:

  • Lightweight and durable EVA make-up
  • Different versions and multiple colors allow for auditory cues and quick reaction
  • It can be used safely by all ages and abilities
  • Travels easily with you anywhere

The HECOstix can be used for virtually any sport and done indoors or outdoors. Perhaps the greatest thing about the product is that it injects FUN into training while allowing users to compete against others or their own results in an effort to improve performance. This tool also allows for progressive challenges moving from underhand to sideways to overhead throws depending on the functional demands and skill level of the participants.

In the clinic, I have been using it with some of my patients rehabbing after ACL reconstruction. Adding neurocognitive training is essential for full recovery and secondary prevention. below is an article from Sports health discussing neurocognitive and neurophysiological functions related to ACL injury:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34236003/

Specifically, I have integrated it with dynamic balance and movement drills calling out a color while throwing the HECOstix toward the client. I have also had a pair of patients throwing and calling out the color as part of a rehab game. I will be continuing to use it with this population and other athletes working on hand eye coordination and cognitive training for their sport.

If you are looking to add a new wrinkle to your training or rehab, I highly recommend giving this product a try. For more information on the product, be sure to visit www.hecostix.com.

At times, athletes I work with have shoulder or low back pain that is related to restrictions in the thoracic spine. Rotational sports rely upon adequate mobility in the thoracic spine to ensure proper force transmission throughout the body’s kinetic chain. This exercise featured in one of my recent PFP online columns is a nice corrective exercise or mobility drill that can be used to optimize t-spine mobility and resolve any asymmetries.

Keep in mind that forcing through pain or stiffness is not advisable. This exercise can be done daily or as part of the warm-up routine.

As 2020 draws to a close and no holiday travel due to COVID, I found myself spending extra time scanning Twitter, IG and some various blogs related to training and rehab last week. I remember starting my blog many years ago prior to the birth of Twitter and IG (I am feeling old typing that lol). My purpose with this blog has always been to freely share information with clients, the general public and practitioners.

Now, more than ever, there is a plethora of opinions, videos, posts and methods on multiple platforms out there on the web. Many people seek clicks, followers, validation, attention, ad revenue or internet fame. It becomes easy to quickly go down a rabbit hole and become consumed with back and forth convos, online debates about the best exercise techniques/methodology, sales pitches for training programs, and in general what I deem to be excessive or over the top ‘look at me’ promotional posts by certain people. On one hand, the internet is a gift that gives us all a bigger platform and voice, including me. On the other hand, it can also muddy the water, create division among the ranks, and propagate consumer confusion as to what is best for him/her in rehab and training circles.

The spirit and purpose of this year-end blog post is one of a cautionary tale for consumers and young professionals. As someone more seasoned with 24 years of experience rehabbing and training clients, I feel it is important to step back and remember a few important things in this era of instant gratification and access to countless online videos, programs and opinions just a few clicks away.


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Long lever abdominal exercises are popular. However, they also pose a risk for the lumbar spine given the relatively poor abdominal strength/control and lever arm created by momentum and the iliopsoas muscle. The stress on the lumbar spine is high as the leg (s) come back down due to reverse muscle action via the attachment of the iliopsoas on the lower lumbar spine. As a result, this can cause a sizable shear force on the spine.

I counsel patients and athletes with prior history of disc pathology to be very careful with any long lever or ballistic abdominal exercises with straight legs as the physics may present higher risk than reward and create excess strain on the spine. While a single workout may not cause harm, there can be a gradual repetitive overload that creates weakness or harm to the disc and/or spine. This exercise from my Functionally Fit column promotes strength and core or pillar stability through resisting excessive spinal extension.