PITCH SMART is a good starting point when protecting young pitchers from injury. However, this measure is not enough on its own. Coaches need additional evaluative tools to determine whether a pitcher can safely pitch. This blog post will discuss other steps coaches should use to keep their pitchers safe.
As we discussed in a previous blog post, the number of pitches thrown in a game is not an accurate measure of a pitcher's fatigue or risk of injury. The pitch count only tells us how many times a pitcher has thrown the ball, not how hard they were throwing it, how long they rested between pitches, or what kind of stress they were under while pitching.
Instead of relying exclusively on the pitch count, coaches should also consider factors such as the pitcher's velocity, the number of strikeouts, and the number of walks. These additional measures can give coaches a complete picture of a pitcher's in-game health and help them make more informed decisions about when to take a pitcher out of the game.
In addition to using these evaluative tools, coaches should ensure that their pitchers are adequately rested and hydrated before taking the mound. Pitchers who are tired or dehydrated are more likely to experience arm injuries, so it is vital to ensure that they are well-rested and hydrated before allowing them to pitch.
By using a combination of PITCH SMART and other evaluative tools, coaches can help protect their pitchers from injury and keep them on the mound for extended periods.
In addition to pitch count, we need to test a few vital things if we truly want to start preventing injury.
We have to measure:
1. The quality of movement at the shoulder, neck, scapula, elbow, pelvis, and lower extremities
2. Strength of the core, shoulder girdle, and rotator cuff
3. Arm path and general pitching mechanics
Let's talk about these one at a time: Quality of Movement
I like to keep things very simple. Over the last 20 years of my clinical practice, I have developed a movement test called G.A.M.E. or Graded Active Movement Exam. GAME measures the initial neurological sequence of movement. The theory is that if the movement is wrong, the whole movement is bad or dysfunctional. If you throw a pitch on the wrong basic movement of the body, just one pitch could cause injury.
I have two specific tests that measure the quality and sequence of shoulder and shoulder girdle movement. The initial sequence of move of the shoulder is scapular depression. The vertebral border of the scapula must be depressed to allow the scapula to turn upwards like the wheel on a ship. This relationship of movement is called the Scapular Thoracic Rhythm. Depending on what reference you read, that ratio is anywhere from 3 to 2 or 1 to 1.
The two tests in GAME that I use specifically for the U.E. U.E., The Free Throw Test and the Shoulder Coordination Test, measure shoulder AROM and the Scapular Humeral Rhythm simultaneously. If the basics of your movement are dysfunctional, every movement is dysfunctional. If a pitcher fails these movements, there is no possible way he could be throwing correctly.
CORE AND ARM STRENGTH
Pitching is primarily and eccentric muscle activity. The body and the arm are working to "slow down". This can be an entire blog on this subject alone, but trust me the arm is slowing down so that it does not come out of its socket and hit the guy in the front row. Every pitch is thrown, correctly or incorrectly, can chip away at the body's overall arm and core strength. You would not go on a trip with the gas tank on 1/8. Measuring strength is a necessary test that must be done between innings. Even after a few innings, I have seen strength dimmish 50% to 75%. On the contrary, despite the pitch count, I have seen strength stay relatively the same. This is why arm strength is important to the entire pitcher's health and well-being.
ARM PATH AND MECHANICS
This is a controversial topic, with many people weighing in on what is right and what is wrong. I will offer my two cents. You must only accelerate your arm with gravity. If you accelerate the arm against gravity, you are going to lose in the end. Whatever your position is, baseball needs a pitching avatar. This avatar would have measurable benchmarks at each step of the way in the pitching delivery. We all know that as one fatigue, it is harder to maintain form in anything physical, especially pitching. Each coach would need to create pitching mechanic markers. I will tell you that what I call ALPHABET SOUP, the M, T, and W arm paths are destructive to arms. They are "teaches," meaning someone taught the pitcher to throw like that. No child in the world picks up a ball for the first time and gets into these ridiculous arm path positions, which causes the arm to be late or behind the speed of the trunk, leaving the arm with way too much applied force. Please stop teaching such nonsense and injurious mechanics.
Although pitch count can be a valuable metric to assess pitcher health, it is no longer the only factor that should be considered. Strength, range of motion, and pitching mechanics also need to be evaluated to ensure pitchers can stay healthy and continue pitching at their highest level. If you have any questions about how our services can help your athletes, please do not hesitate to contact us @ 978-651-1812. Email us @firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, check out www.gametest.live or www.perfectmotionsportstherapy.com.
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