The Great Pitching Paradox (part 2)

Part one introduced what I believe to be the greatest paradox that young pitchers face: two of the most important qualities for being a seasoned and effective pitcher (innings pitched and arm speed) are also two of the greatest risk factors for injury. I also briefly discussed some important considerations for pitching mechanics. While pitchers should not be forced into some cookie-cutter model, we should seek to identify and address known "red flags," especially when there is a chronic problem.

In this installment we address how a pitcher may train their body in order to improve the chances of remaining uninjured. What can you do off the mound, if anything, to throw harder and remain injury free?

The Throwers 10  use to be STILL IS commonly recommended as an effective means to increase performance and prevent injury. The program was designed by Dr. Craig Andrews and his team at the  Andrews American Sports Medicine Institute. It is my opinion (and experience) that we can and should do a lot better than The Throwers 10.

Take a quick look at the Throwers 10 here.

"Bro" doing shoulder internal rotation. 
I'll readily admit that there is a time and place for the Throwers 10. The program could be done in part during warm-up drills, as filler between more intense training activities, and in the early and intermediate phases of rehabilitation after an injury. But to my knowledge this has not been validated as an effective way to prevent injuries or increase performance in pitchers. And I'm certain that this is nothing near a comprehensive training program.

Pitching is indeed a fairly extreme activity. Baseball has been grandfathered in as a traditional sporting event rather than X-games material. But consider the demands of pitching.

-High intensity: In most instances, pitchers put forth maximal effort on every repetition.

-High speed: Rotational velocity of the shoulder approaches some of the fastest movement seen in all of sports.

-Total body effort: The shoulder complex and arm are the final moving segment of a functional whip that began with the generation of force from the ground.

-Asymmetry: Throwing is an inherently asymmetrical task that, when left unchecked, can contribute to side-to-side differences that progress over time.

-Repetetive: The intense, high velocity, asymmetrical, full body effort is typically repeated 80 to well over 100 times per outing, one or two times per week, for up to 9 months out of the year.

As I previously mentioned, it's no wonder that pitchers have always been plagued with injuries. We should consider re-framing the conversation to the "staggering number of pitchers who remain uninjured."

And now back to the topic of training and The Throwers 10. Do you truly expect that a handful of relatively low intensity, isolated shoulder/arm exercises are going to have much sway over what occurs in the heat of battle? I will grant that these exercises can be effective (IF properly coached) as corrective exercise to help form new movement patterns. But the light, controlled, isolation exercises of the Throwers Ten need to be translated to the high force, rapid, total body movement of throwing. It doesn't just magically happen. We should not expect that pulling on tubing and waving around light dumbbells will automatically translate to throwing.
500-pound bench press not necessary.

It's like saying that high level snowboarders should do foot exercises in case they fall from an extreme height.

On the other hand, some athletes (and personal trainers) put themselves through rigorous body-building type training routines. Often times these athletes train muscles rather than movement patterns, and end up with a less than efficient carry over to the demands of throwing. The common practice of pitchers running "poles" (long submaximal sprints) to condition the legs is yet another example of a challenging yet non-specific training method that holds little value to keeping strong and healthy on the mound.

Yes, the legs need to be in top shape! But running poles is far from the best way to ensure that the legs are able to do their prime job of generating and later dissipating the high forces on the mound.

What I'm suggesting is a detailed, total body training program that addresses the athletes individual structure and function. In general, pitchers need to train smart and hard to make the entire system efficient and resilient. The specifics of exactly how the athlete may achieve this depends entirely on the structure, function, and other needs of the individual athlete. This would include looking at passive joint flexibility as well as active multi-joint mobility, strength, and stability. Where is the athlete tight or weak? In what ways does he compensate for poor posture, misalignment or improper positioning?
YES-Bridging the gab between throwing and "small" rehab!

There is simply no substitute for taking the time and effort to have a thorough movement analysis. This enables the athlete to know what to do and often more importantly, what not to bother with. Really, you don't have to do thousands of prone rows if you can execute a *quality* pull-up, barbell- or "lawn mower" dumbbell row. You need not waste your time with "pointer dogs" if you can maintain a neutral spine with a moderately loaded dead lift variation. You need not focus on bench pressing 400 pounds when you can already press 300.

I could list many examples, but nevertheless, if the athlete is seriously considering higher level pitching, just schedule the assessment ; )

No comments:

Post a Comment