Kent Bond is IMPACTing young pitchers
Winning isn't just about talent, team work and sound fundamentals, but also health.
Kent Bond, owner and operator of Impact Physical Therapy of Hillsboro, takes his — and more importantly — his athletes' health seriously. And with the help of a couple of his colleagues, he's taken that concern and turned it into a preventive program aimed at the arm health of youth and high school baseball players.
Last season, Bond — who doubled as an assistant coach for last season's state champion Banks High School baseball team — started his ELEVATE Arm Care Program as a means of minimizing damage, facilitating healing, improving flexibility and enhancing recovery in athletes between pitching outings. As a result of the program, Bond aims to keep players healthy and on the diamond through both preventive and post-performance therapy.
"What they say about youth sports injuries is that 70 percent are preventable," Bond said. "When you put that into arm care stuff, I believe it's closer to 80 percent. The fact that a kid falls on an outstretched arm and tears a rotator cuff or labrum, those things happen, but most baseball injuries are preventable and I believe this program helps with that."
Bond is quick to point out that he did not create this program — he stole it.
Not really, but after speaking at length with two of his colleagues, Mike Reinold and Lenny Macrina of Champion Physical Therapy in Boston, he approached the respected practitioners about hijacking their ideas and putting them to use as part of his Washington County-based business.
"I asked them if we could steal it from them," Bond said with a chuckle. "And he said, 'you're not stealing, all this stuff we've learned from other people and simply put it into a working program.'"
What Reinold and Macrina found was that due to inclement weather, baseball players in the Northeast are often forced to fit an entire baseball season into a six-week span. As a result, pitchers are doing a lot of pitching and the research shows that overuse and prolonged use lead to shortening of the external rotators and fatigue in the rotator cuff, which in turn leads to increased injuries.
"These pitchers are doing a lot of pitching and so they implemented a program where they'd bring these pitchers in the day after they pitched to do preventive stuff and recovery stuff so they'd be ready to go for their next start," Bond said. "They've seen a significant decrease in innings lost due to injury, so I picked his brain and asked him how they do it."
How they — and now Bond — do it is through a program designed be implemented through a 24-hour window. Bond likes to get pitchers into his office the morning after their work on the mound, then put them through a 30-minute session of Astym treatment, a form of therapy that regenerates healthy soft tissues and eliminates or reduces unwanted scar tissue that often causes pain or movement restrictions. Methods can include but aren't limited to cupping, trigger point work with lacrosse balls and foam rollers, in addition to a lot of stretching to prevent the tightening and loss of motion that occurs between starts. The veteran physical therapist implemented the program at Banks this past season, and said the results for the most part spoke for themselves.
"We had seven kids that pitched over 3,000 pitches, and had absolutely no loss of innings due to injury," said Bond. "We mostly kept our kids around 75-80 pitches, and the two kids that did the bulk of the workload for us commented how much better their arms felt the next day. They didn't have that post-exercise soreness, they felt looser — and they could throw the ball further without soreness or pain.
"We never had a kid say he couldn't pitch today or his arm is sore today. There was absolutely no loss of innings due to an arm problem."
Arm care has become even more prevalent in recent years due to the added workload put on athletes as club and travel baseball has become more common.
Contrary to popular belief, baseball participation is up. According a Wall Street Journal report, 15.9 million people played baseball in 2018, a 21% rise over the previous five-year stretch. Much of that is due to the increased popularity of travel, or club, ball. Unfortunately as a result of that rise, players are doing more, pitchers are doing even more than that. According to Bond, that's something parents and coaches at all levels need to be aware of.
"With the number of kids that are playing on traveling squads and pitching on multiple teams, it needs to get better," Bond said. "The OSAA did a good thing with their pitch count program to eliminate the trauma, but the kid who plays on multiple teams and goes to pitch for a club team on the weekend is in a tough spot. Coaches and parents need to get involved when it comes to how frequently kids are throwing between their two teams."
As a means of both growing his business and multiplying his services, including the ELEVATE Arm Care Program, Bond is opening a second treatment facility in Banks. He's leasing space that will eventually house a bevy of health care practitioners as part of an overall wellness facilty. He hopes that with the addition of a second site, he can treat an area north and west of Hillsboro that for the most part lacks similar services.
"When I looked at the map there wasn't really anything this direction," he said. "Nothing in North Plains, Banks or Vernonia. My relationship with Banks High School, coupled with the lack of competition and the need to provide services, drove that decision."
While much of the responsibility for the health — or specifically in this case, arm health — falls on the shoulders of parents and coaches, Bond will tell you that it ultimately comes down to the dedication of the athletes who are directly involved.
"it's the old saying, 'you get out what you put in,'" Bond said. "When it comes down to it, kids need to take responsibility for their own bodies and the work they do to help minimize damage, and programs like this can help with that."
And how important can that health be to winning?
"If more people put more care into their arm care, and as much of the time that they do into groundballs and batting, it could help to build a winning program," said Bond. "Because when you lose a kid you need due to injury, it can really hurt you as a team."
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