Throw Like The Pros

by Dr. Donald D. Shrump Jr., MS, CSCS

With all the MLB pitcher injuries, it's hard for a kid to look up to anyone these days. It would seem at any moment you're idolizing (insert best guy in MLB) and the next thing you know, the guy is in the OR (operating room). When I was a kid, I tried my best to throw, hit, and look just like the pros. That led to bad habits and a style I did not earn—not to mention decreased performance. My coaches and dad had to get me back on track with fundamental drills to get me to that prototypical look.

Not much has changed in 30 years. 

Kids are following what the pros are doing: they are throwing hard, mimicking every nuance of their idol thanks to YouTube, and they are getting more injuries than the pros. So what should be done? 

 Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

The Baltimore Orioles have the longest active streak without losing a pitcher to Tommy John surgery at 5 years. So if your child wants to play baseball, and happens to want to pitch for more than 5 years, then something must change with the way we look at pitch count, pitching biomechanics, pitching drills, and training pitchers to reduce injuries. Research on Major League Baseball pitchers showed that 25% of MLB pitchers may need to undergo UCL surgery. However, 57% of youth pitchers get that same surgery, equaling hundreds of thousands of kids each year. (1,6)

If we look at research on the biomechanics of the pros versus youth from ASMI, the normative ranges are nearly the same: external rotation maximum of 174 to 190°, stride length of 78% to 87% of pitcher height, lead knee angle of 128° to 145°, and so on. There is no statistically-significant difference in pitching biomechanics at the youth level up to the MLB level other than the younger kids are more variable in their delivery.7,8 This variability in mechanics, however, may be contributing to micro-trauma in the elbows of youth pitchers as well as anyone with risk of factors such as: pitching while fatigued, pitching for multiple teams, or playing catcher when not pitching. Of course, if quantity is not an issue, then pitching quality may be the problem. (6)

 Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

Improper biomechanics may increase the torque and force produced about the elbow during each pitch. This means coaches and parents allowing pitchers to throw incorrectly may be leading to more injuries. To help solve this problem, coaches and parents use state-of-the-art technology to not only slow down the delivery, but more importantly, accurately measure the kinematic and kinetic sequence. 

This is where 3D Motion Capture laboratories are useful—but you can’t take $150,000 worth of cameras and computers to a bull pen or a game for your 12-year-old every week. And measuring the spin rate, ball flight, strikes, balls, etc. with some other technology does not show anything about biomechanics; it is like looking at the effect without ever seeing the cause. It’s similar to showing up at a car crash and seeing the damage, but never how it all started.

What if you could get the same quality of analysis as some fancy lab right on your phone, with no additional accessories, cameras, or hardware required? What if you could just download an app from your app store, record pitches, get them analyzed, and be able to see where the cause of any potential biomechanical issue may lie? Even better, what if the app could also tell you how to fix the problem that was seen in the analysis?

That is where PitchRx comes in. 

On your phone, you can get 3D biomechanical analysis against ASMI’s normative, gold-standard data and then receive individualized pitching drills to help correct any faults that are found. These pitching drills are not some “new thing” someone just came up with and posted on Instagram or YouTube; they were tested in ASMI’s lab on MLB pitchers to see which drills actually fix which problem. This eliminates tons of useless, time-wasting drills—and you won’t need a fancy contraptions or devices to see results.

Think about how many coaches and parents are actually experts in pitching biomechanics and the drills to correct improper delivery. Everyone believes they are an expert, and everyone thinks they can see the best angle of every throw from the dugout or stands.

Yet, MLB pitchers go to biomechanical labs for analysis because their coaches know that what they can’t see might be the difference between winning and losing or Tommy John and out for 18 months or retirement. This is the reason we wanted to bring biomechanical lab analysis to your phone, to your dugout, and to your pitchers: so everyone can see the faults in their mechanics and correct them before it’s too late. PitchRx app gives you the exact drills to fix the issues in your delivery to allow for safer pitching, games, careers, and most importantly, fun. 

 

REFERENCES

1. Fleisig GS, Andrews JR, Cutter GR, et al. Risk of serious injury for young baseball pitchers: a 10-year prospective study. Am J Sports Med. 2011;39(2):253-257.

2. Fleisig G, Chu Y, Weber A, Andrews J. Variability in baseball pitching biomechanics among various levels of competition. Sports biomechanics. 2009;8(1):10-21.

3. Davis JT, Limpisvasti O, Fluhme D, et al. The effect of pitching biomechanics on the upper extremity in youth and adolescent baseball pitchers. Am J Sports Med. 2009;37(8):1484-1491.

4. Dun S, Fleisig GS, Loftice J, Kingsley D, Andrews JR. The relationship between age and baseball pitching kinematics in professional baseball pitchers. Journal of Biomechanics. 2007;40(2):265-270.

5. Erickson BJ, Chalmers PN, Axe MJ, Romeo AA. Exceeding Pitch Count Recommendations in Little League Baseball Increases the Chance of Requiring Tommy John Surgery as a Professional Baseball Pitcher. Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine. 2017;5(3):2325967117695085.

6. Fleisig GS, Weber A, Hassell N, Andrews JR. Prevention of elbow injuries in youth baseball pitchers. Current sports medicine reports. 2009;8(5):250-254.

7. Fleisig GS, Diffendaffer AZ, Ivey B, et al. Changes in Youth Baseball Pitching Biomechanics: A 7-Year Longitudinal Study. Am J Sports Med. 2018;46(1):44-51.

8. Fleisig GS, Kingsley DS, Loftice JW, et al. Kinetic comparison among the fastball, curveball, change-up, and slider in collegiate baseball pitchers. Am J Sports Med. 2006;34(3):423-430.