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FASSTBall Down the Middle

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As a certified athletic trainer with 15 years of experience, Craig Castor has observed the warm-up routines of many youth, high school, college and minor league baseball players.

Those warm-ups—cross-over stretches, arm windmills, and wrist and forearm stretches followed by long-toss—are strikingly similar and, in Castor's view, not very effective.

Castor, who worked for a time with the Washington Wild Things, has trained baseball players from high school to the pros for a decade. The "static" warm-ups they perform, stretching muscles in a fixed position for up to half a minute, don't increase blood flow or range of motion much. Worse yet, recent studies suggest such motions may weaken muscles immediately after they're completed. That's last thing an athlete wants right before game time.

"There's a chance you can lose strength warming up the old-fashioned way," Castor said.

To give athletes an inexpensive, more efficient way to warm up, build arm strength and stay healthy, Castor and fellow athletic trainer Eric Cardwell developed FASSTBall, or Functional Arm Strength Stability Trainer. The device recently became patent pending, and Castor and Cardwell expect it to receive a patent by the summer.

The FASSTBall resembles a water bottle turned sideways, with a rod through the middle that has a baseball attached to its top. Water is added or dumped from the bottle to change resistance levels. The athlete grips the ball and performs various exercises for 10-to-15 second intervals, promoting blood flow and flexibility in the hand muscles, wrists, elbows, triceps, biceps, shoulders and core muscles. Postgame, the FASSTBall can be used to strengthen the arm with 15-to-30 second exercises.

What separates the FASSTBall from those windmills and cross-over stretches is that it's an active-dynamic warm-up tool, using the motion of the body to circulate blood and get loose quicker.

"Active-dynamic warm-ups properly increase your body tissues to prepare for competition," Castor said. "I like to consider your body like a race car. You don't fire up the engine and go. You need to warm up the engine slowly and increase speeds. With your body, you start with the large muscle groups, where more blood is, and go to the smaller muscle groups."

Castor thinks there has been increase in pitching arm injuries, particularly at the amateur level, due to factors such as pitchers throwing more often for travel teams, playing positions on the diamond after throwing, and using advanced breaking pitches at an earlier age. From a stress level, "they're probably throwing more innings than major league pitchers," Castor said.

The FASSTBall limits the mileage on a pitcher's arm by cutting warm-up time in half, eliminating unnecessary wear and tear of the shoulder, Castor said.

High schools and traveling teams have purchased FASSTBalls, as well as college, minor league and major league players. Athletic trainers, chiropractors and physical therapists have a FASSTBall in their repertoire, too. Rehabbing pitchers can use the tool to simulate game action before they're ready to take the mound.

"Injured baseball players like that it gets a baseball back in their hands before they are ready to throw," Castor said.

It's not just for baseball, either. Castor said the FASSTBall has been used by a javelin thrower, a 70-year-old tennis player and a professional drummer.

Mainly, though, the FASSTBall is targeted toward "that high school player who has one athletic trainer for 500 kids," Castor said. "This way, they have something they can throw in their bag, fill it up with water, and go out and warm up."

Visit http://fasstball.myshopify.com/.

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