1) #1 reason for injury is previous injury. If you have any pain, discomfort, or limitations; go see your sports rehab provider! The goal is to stay ON the field and perform at your highest level. If you’re familiar with FMS/SFMA guidelines, zeros, function painful, and dysfunctional painful are red lights and seeing your specialist is a good idea.
2) As you throw more and more(especially as a pitcher), your body is molding you to be the best human catapult as possible. There are many components to look at as we cock back to the throwing position.
lumbar spine and thoracic spine needs to extend well
proper shoulder flexion
scapular upward rotation and posterior tilt
adequate rotator cuff strength/timing
Quick test you can do at home to see shoulder flexion limitations. If this is tough for you, pitching mechanics can be improved and overhead shoulder exercises puts you at higher risk for low back injuries.
3) If your wrist flexors are strained from previous activity, please pitch with some caution. As we hear more and more pitchers with medial elbow issues (mainly ulnar collateral ligament(UCL)/”Tommy John” ligament) due to poor movement patterns or high pitch counts, this is a easy one to detect. First, go ahead and flex your front forearm muscles and tell me where most of the meat is…...inside of your elbow right?!?! All those muscles comes into a structure called the common flexor tendon and attaches to the medial epicondyle. Those muscles are important medial elbow stabilizers which restraints from valgus stress and protects that ulnar collateral ligament. There was a study done in 1996 that a fresh cadaver’s UCL fails at about 32Nm(torque) and throwing a baseball puts about 64Nm of stress onto medial side of the elbow. So where is that additional protection coming from? Yes, your wrist flexor tendons! (Side note: your brachialis muscle come across the medial elbow too and attaches to the ulnar tuberosity which will protect the UCL as well)
I read an ESPN article two days ago and read that Cliff Lee, a $25 million pitcher, is about to throw a spring training game with a common flexor tendon strain and now a surgery date may be made in the near future! Smart move? You tell me!
4) If you’re a pitcher, maintain your body weight throughout the whole season! Since you’re a human catapult, losing weight makes your base smaller/lighter and at the same time you lose momentum going down the mound. In 2014, CC Sababthia lost 40+ lbs during the offseason and guess what happened...his ERA increased and pitched only 46 innings. Even if you lost fat and gained muscle, Meghan Trainor would say; “it’s about that bas(e)”! Maintain your weight!
Quick baseball quiz: If Dustin Pedroia and I (both 5’6) were hitting BP together with the same bat, hitting with the same bat speed, had the same contact height, and same contact angle; who hits the ball further?
Put your answers or any questions in the comment box!
Cressey Sports Performance
Biomechanics of the elbow in the throwing athlete. Oper Tech Sports Med 1996
Function Movement Screening/Selective Functional Movement Assessment