Spring training is right around the corner for the Major League Baseball teams. This also means that it is time for those collegiate, high school, and little league teams to be getting started. So why is there this long preseason and training period? One reason, and the main focus of this paper, is to help prevent baseball injury.
Two major causes of injury in the baseball athlete, in particular pitchers, are overuse and poor mechanics. The American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama has found that youth pitchers who pitch more than 100 innings per year increase their likelihood of becoming injured by 3.5%.¹ Another study performed at the Sports Medicine Institute also found that young pitchers (14-20 years old) pitching greater than 80 pitches per game increased their likelihood of surgery 4 times; pitching more than 8 months out of the year increased their risk 5 times; and pitching while fatigued increased their risk 36 times.² Therefore, proper conditioning, mechanics, and education are key components in trying to prevent injury.
Preventing injury in the throwing athlete starts with a proper strength and conditioning program. There are multiple versions of the Throwers Ten program out there. Attached in the link below is the Throwers Ten program from the American Sports Medicine Institute. These are generalized exercises to help strengthen those key components of the throwing motion. The exercises are to be done with proper form throughout and can be modified for each individual.* In preparation for return to throwing, whether at the beginning of the season or returning from an injury, a good strengthening program along with an interval throwing program is best.
One interval throwing program developed in 2009 included programs for varying age levels, as well as for different positions³ The first 3 to 4 steps in the throwing program, regardless of age and position, starts with the same amount of effort, throws, and distance. As you progress through the stages, the program then becomes more specific to pitching and position. These interval throwing programs are not intended to be for everyone and can be modified.* It should be noted while progressing through a throwing program it has been found athletes have difficulties in estimating their perceived exertion.³ This is important to decrease risk of fatigue and overuse. To progress through a throwing program and make maximal gains, proper mechanics should be emphasized as well.
Many baseball athletes want to know how to throw with higher velocity, or produce a better “trick” pitch. Higher velocity and performing trick pitches comes with higher risk of injury, as indicated in the previous studies. Therefore, proper mechanics throughout the kinetic chain from the foot up to the hand is important. It has been reported that increase in ball velocity is related to proper mechanics including timing between pelvis and upper trunk, maximizing shoulder external rotation, increased knee extension, and increased forward trunk lean at varying parts of the throwing mechanics. Some poor mechanics of the throwing cycle that lead to increased stress through the arm and possible injury are foot position, too much or too little shoulder external rotation, poor timing between pelvic and upper trunk, and shoulder angle.4 One option to assess mechanics is video throwing analysis and can be done at varying AthletiCo locations.
The risk of injury is increasing in this population due to the increase in participation and time spent throwing, poor conditioning, and poor education. Strength and conditioning, throwing programs, mechanics, and education are key aspects in longevity of the throwing athlete. To maximize potential and help prevent injury the above guidelines are a good foundation in protecting the baseball population.
*Please understand that these are guidelines and are modifiable. To individualize to each person further assessment may be necessary. For further evaluation and individualized care please contact your medical professional.
- Flesig GS et al. Risk of Serious Injury for Young Baseball Pitchers: A 10 year Prospective Study. American Journal of Sports Medicine. Feb2011; 39(2): 253-257.
- Olsen SJ et al. Risk factors for Shoulder and Elbow Injuries in Adolescent Baseball Pitchers. American Journal of Sports Medicine. June2006; 34(6): 905-912.
- Axe M et al. Data-Based Interval Throwing Programs for Baseball Players. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. March/April2009; 1 (2): 145-153.
- Fortenbaugh D et al. Baseball Pitching Biomechanics in Relation to Injury Risk and Performance. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. July/August2009; 1 (4): 314-320.
The author of this article is Sean Hassett, PT, DPT, Graston® Certified from Athletico – Andersonville.