Saturday, July 2, 2011

Understand Pitching Mechanics to Avoid Injury

As baseball becomes more competitive at all levels of the game more and more parents, players, and coaches are worried about the health of the athlete’s throwing arm.  “Each year nearly 6 out of 10 young pitchers hurt their elbows.1 One of the main keys to having a long sporting career is preventing injury.  Over the past 10 years guidelines have been put in place at all levels to help avoid injury.  These guidelines often work to limit pitch counts per practice, per game, or per week.  Recently the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) added new insight to the forces placed on the elbow and shoulder during baseball throwing. 

What did the study show us?

The study of 17 college-level pitchers attempted to look at pitching mechanics during fastball pitching both on and off a mound as well as long distance throwing (>180 feet).  The researchers found that participants tended to lean farther forward as the pitching distances increased.  The forward lean increased the forces placed at the elbow and shoulder. 

My Advice

Flat-ground throws fewer than 120 feet should be used as warm-up or conditioning exercises.  Increasing the distance beyond this point can cause injury or inhibit full rehabilitation to a recovering player.  Physical Therapists are often touted as “movement experts.”  This means that physical therapists can best analyze movement patterns during pitching and can retrain athletes to use safer pitching movement patterns.  This makes Physical Therapists the best in the medical profession to “progress pitching in a way that helps recover and to limit future injury.”1

Reference:   J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2011;41(5):304. doi:10.2519/jospt.2011.0503

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