Why are pitching injuries on the rise? Some of my thoughts…
If every pitcher has their own “pitching” coach, why then are pitching injuries on the rise in youth, high school, college and professional baseball?
If every league adheres to pitch counts to protect their pitchers, why are pitchers getting injured more frequently?
A pitcher must look at two things:
1. structural integrity (mechanics)
2. muscular fitness (strength and conditioning)
Major league, college and some high school pitchers are well-conditioned enough to throw 150 pitches per game. There’s too much good information out there to help pitchers strengthen themselves as much as they can. There are certainly more better conditioned young pitchers than there was when I was pitching.
And yet, with all the different ways to strengthen and condition pitchers arms and bodies, then have still found a way to break down, and break down hard.
Which leads us to structural integrity. Injuries to ligaments, labrums, rotator cuffs are structural, not muscular. The most well conditioned pitchers are in the big leagues and they still get hurt and that is because their pitching mechanics have injurious flaws that even the strongest pitchers can’t get away from.
Since 2000, pitching mechanics have been heavily debated. Video and photos have been nitpicked and nitpicked by “experts” who think they have a pseudo-scientific understanding of mechanics because “if the great pitchers in major league baseball throw that way, then it must be correct and proper”. So generations of pitchers are now torn away from their over-the-top instinctive arm slots to more “generic” 3/4 arm slots. “Look at the way so-and-so throws”, that’s how you’ll throw more strikes, that’s how you’ll throw harder, etc. Coaches who don’t have a clue just point to other pitchers and say, “throw like he does”.
The truth is, not one of these coaches teach pitching from an understanding of how the body and arm were built to move.
I wonder if there was an epidemic of cavemen with tommy john injuries from throwing spears overhead?
Remember back in the old days, when your coach wouldn’t let you throw sidearm cause it would hurt your arm? Now coaches teach “sidearm” or low 3/4 slots because it would give you more movement. Coaches teach how to rear back and whip your arm behind the body, away from the body and then across the body, as fast as humanly possible.
In order to create pitchers capable of throwing 150 pitches per game, pitchers would have to train their structural mechanics to deliver the baseball in such a way that it does not cause structural injuries. This can be done, but it takes hours and hours of practice to perfect a new throwing motion. Pitchers would have to learn exactly what in their throwing motion causes injury, remove any such flaws in their throwing motions and once that happens, they will be able to strengthen their arms muscularly to the point where they can throw 150 pitches EVERY DAY if they wanted to. How?
The two largest throwing muscles in the body are the latissimus dorsi (back), and the triceps brachii (arm). How many pitching coaches do you think train their pitchers to use these muscles to deliver the baseball?
The tricep muscle contains the highest percentage of fast twitch muscle in the pitching arm. When pitchers throw from a high 3/4″ and lower arm slot, they cannot use this muscle to drive the ball.
The lat muscle is the largest muscle in the back. When pitchers pull their pitching arm behind, away and across their body, they cannot use their lat to drive the ball to the plate.
The lat muscle is also built to slow down the pitching arm after release. However, when pitchers pull their arms across their bodies, the teres minor muscle, which is considerably smaller is the only muscle available to slow the arm down.
Once pitchers learn to use these powerful muscles to deliver the baseball, they can now increase their muscular fitness by training the arm through overload strength training. By doing so, pitchers would be able to pitch as often and as long as they wanted.
For youth pitchers and high school pitchers that have not yet reached full growth plate maturity, pitch counts and/or the number of competitive months thrown per year becomes a factor. Throwing too much at young ages can overstress growth plates and cause injuries to still open plates in the elbow and shoulder. There is no amount of structural or muscular training that supercedes a child’s growth pattern. Coaches and parents must understand the damage that can be done before pitchers are fully mature.