toss this around

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There's been some debate regarding whether or not a pitcher should be doing long toss. Each side has both sports medicine and traditional baseball "experts" claiming how wonderful or terrible it is to throw on a high arc for maximal distance versus direct line throws of shorter distances.

If this seem like a silly debate of minutia, it is. There are a lot of "big picture" issues that simply cannot be skipped. As I wrote about here, the data indicates that there are more important considerations, like the number of months of rest from throwing per year, total throws per game, innings pitched per year, and about 20 other factors that pitchers should be considering.  Intelligent training of the entire body is the best way to spare the throwing arm.

That being said, with 6 out of 10 pitchers sustaining a significant shoulder or elbow injury, athletes, parents, and coaches need to give some attention to the minutia.

Well, authors of a recent study advised against long toss for maximal distance based on their observation that the mechanics of long tossing are different than throwing for shorter distances, and that long toss throws cause greater torque at the shoulder and elbow.

From this I conclude, "Oh really?"

Long tossing, like, where the athlete takes a few skips and a crow hop and reaches way back, orients his chest to the heavens, grits his teeth, and launches the ball out and up... The "kinematic and kinetic" values of THAT are different than throwing from a mound? THAT move, which creates higher arm speed, causes more torque on the elbow and shoulder?

For reals?

Well, if we're talking about returning to rehab after an injury, it's pretty clear that you need to be careful. This study did affirm that long toss is probably not a very good idea for rehab. But lets talk about someone with a relatively healthy arm who wants to gain velocity and total body rhythm that actually helps decrease strain on the arm.

The  measured differences listed by the authors, like higher arm speed and the mechanical variation from pitching off the mound, these are exactly why long toss is a valuable component of training. Pitching with high velocity and good control is total body effort. Throwing should occur in three planes of motion {rotation, front to back, and side to side), not just linearly (front to back).

I think long toss is one of the best ways to "fix" pitchers who are all constipated in their delivery, "arming" the ball with a robotic linear pattern or without transfer of energy from their legs. It's a great way to create some sport specific strain that's a slight variation from the forces and trauma of pitching in games.

With pitching, even in the best case scenario, micro-trauma occurs throughout the entire upper extremity. The risk of injury certainly goes up if pitchers simply add any type of maximal effort throws to an already over stressed arm.

Like just about everything, long toss can be overdone and used inappropriately. But lets at least allow for long toss until we get more evidence that all pitchers should never long toss.

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