What Is A “Dead Arm” in Baseball?

Since the 1980s, “dead arm” has been used to describe any shoulder condition causing pain that prevents the thrower from throwing with the velocity and control he had prior to the injury. In most cases, a dead arm occurs during the acceleration phase. In this case, the athlete suddenly feels pain as the arm moves forward. It is no longer possible for him to throw the ball with the velocity he used to have due to the arm going “dead.”

Interested in dead arm syndrome? Keep reading. Symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention will be discussed in this article.

Symptoms Of the Dead Arm Syndrome

Apart from weakness and pain, the condition makes your arm feel lifeless or “dead.” Some common symptoms include:

  • Rigidity
  • Coldness or prickling
  • Exhaustion in the affected arm
  • Decreased throwing speed
  • Lack of ability in throwing with force
  • Lesser control while moving the shoulder

Causes Of Dead Arm Syndrome

The “Dead Arm” occurrence is a disorder that can be caused by numerous issues. Some of these are: 

  • Internal impingement 
  • Psychosomatic factors
  • Calcification in the ball and socket joint
  • Impingement of the shoulder ligaments 
  • Bone spurs in the acromion 
  • Bicep tendonitis
  • Rotator cuff problems
  • Micro-instability

Who Is Susceptible to the Dead Arm Syndrome?

Dead arm syndrome is not common. Usually, people who use their arm muscles repeatedly for strenuous activity, like throwing, are in danger of getting a dead arm. Individuals with a higher risk of dead arm syndrome are:

  • Manual laborers 
  • Water polo players
  • Tennis players
  • Young athletes
  • Volleyball players
  • Baseball pitchers

Treatment Of Dead Arm Syndrome

Improving the strength and stability of the shoulder treats the dead arm syndrome. It depends significantly on the severity of your injury and on the frequency of your overhead movements’ performance. Treatment may include:

Physical Therapy: 

As your shoulder starts to feel better, you’ll likely need to visit a physical therapist. The therapist will guide you in shoulder strengthening exercises.


Taking rest is crucial, no matter whether you have severe or mild symptoms. This helps you in preventing your symptoms from getting poorer.

Anti-inflammatory Medicines: 

Anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, further ease the pain.


Putting ice on hurting muscles helps reduce the pain.


Surgery is the last and ultimate solution. If all of the above treatments fail to work, or if you have severe symptoms, you might need surgery. A surgeon repairs the damaged ligaments or tendons in your shoulder.

In case you get surgery, you will need to wear a sling. Your physical therapy will also be started about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Moreover, before you return to your usual activity, your doctor will offer a “return to play” regimen. This program helps you repossess the power safely over time.

Even if you don’t get surgery, it is important to get consent from your doctor before continuing your normal activity. Re-injury of your shoulder and extending the healing process may be the result of returning too early.

The overall healing time totally relies on your symptoms. Just a few days are required to heal if you have mild symptoms. The time span could be 2 to 4 months or even a year if you have a severe injury or had surgery.

What Is The Best Way To Avoid Dead Arm Syndrome?

It is really difficult to avoid overusing the shoulder if you are a practicing sportsperson. But you can lower your risk by considering the following tips:

By strengthening exercises: 

By doing strengthening exercises, your upper back, core, and shoulders stay strong enough. This also helps in improving shoulder firmness.

Using the right technique: 

Invest your time in learning the correct technique for your sport. It is considered one of the best ways to lessen the risk of injury.


Let your body relax, mainly after periods of extreme activity. For coaches, it is recommended to limit the number of throws players do per week or game.

Changing the body position: 

When possible, try to switch up the way you perform overhead movements. This will help reduce repeated stress on the shoulder.

Daily stretching: 

Do not forget to follow a stretching routine planned for your particular sport. Must stretch and form your body before and after the activity.

How Do I Know If I Have A “Dead Arm”?

You can find out if you have a dead arm with a simple test. This is a test to evaluate the extent of forward rotation. Initially, assume a lying position and position your arm at a 90-degree angle in relation to your body, ensuring that the elbow is also held at the same angle. 

While keeping the shoulder steady and preventing the shoulder blade from moving upwards, permit the forearm to move forward as much as possible. Ideally, you should achieve approximately 90 degrees of forward motion.

Each individual possesses unique characteristics. To effectively evaluate the extent of range loss, it is advisable to compare it with the unaffected arm and utilize it as a reference point. According to a study, individuals who experienced range loss and engaged in stretching exercises targeting the capsule experienced a significant 38% reduction in the occurrence of shoulder issues. 

This outcome was in contrast to the group that did not partake in stretching exercises. Researchers have established that a loss of forward rotation range within 20 degrees is considered acceptable. This value corresponds to less than 10% of the total rotation observed in the non-throwing shoulder.

Conclusion for What Is The “Dead Arm” in Baseball?

Dead arm syndrome is a condition that arises from excessive use of the arm. It occurs when repetitive movements performed above the head, such as throwing a ball, cause damage to the muscles or tendons in the shoulder. 

Common indications of dead arm syndrome encompass discomfort, weakness, and a sensation of numbness in the upper arm. Individuals engaged in sports like baseball, tennis, and water polo are more prone to developing this condition. Additionally, manual laborers who frequently engage in overhead-reaching activities face an elevated risk. 

The treatment for dead arm syndrome involves the application of ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and ample rest. Furthermore, it necessitates the implementation of strengthening exercises to enhance shoulder stability. 

Fortunately, it is possible to reduce the likelihood of developing dead arm syndrome by taking regular breaks and employing proper techniques. Engaging in strengthening exercises and stretches will also contribute to conditioning the body and maintaining strong shoulders.

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