If the village idiot asked you to smell his finger, would you?
More on that in a moment…
Right now, let’s talk about the epidemic of tommy john surgeries and elbow injuries.
Before we begin, I want you to know, I’m not an expert, nor a doctor…
In fact, it took me 6 freakin’ years to graduate from college, at a state school in KY.
So, all these scientific based principles are way over my head, that’s why I created Baseball Think Tank.
In fact, I’m a belief based pitching coach, it’s true!
I believe that every pitcher is different..
I also believe that many of the reason pitchers are getting hurt is caused by the culture of pitching lessons, video analysis and mechanical models. (Plus a whole lot more!)
Either way, its a serious problem and unfortunately, the Beauty Pageant Judges and Swiss Army Knives are crawling out of the wood work with their solutions and scientific based cherry picking.
So, today I’m going to share with you, a story my grandfather passed down to me.
Maybe it will shed some light on the elbow injury epedimic…
My story begins with the adventures of two young boys, blessed with golden arms and…
This is the legend of two young boys who lived thousands of years ago, there names were Muffin and Pound Cake. The two relied on mere rocks, to hunt game and provide food for their family.
Muffin lived on a continent surrounded by water, and the landscape was hilly; big game was hard to find.
Two continents away, lived his first cousin Pound Cake, and luckily for both, there was no internet connection and family reunions were difficult to attend.
Pound Cakes world featured wide open plains and savannahs, he hunted much larger game than cousin Muffin.
Each morning, the boys would head out to gather food with a handful of rocks, and make no mistake they were providers.
In fact, you would never find either attending single’s night at the club, there was no need, because each had his pick of the litter. (More on that in a later post…)
- Muffin’s tribe relied on a diet of water fowl and small squirrels.
- Pound Cake hunted big game, with a diet filled with red meat, it was no coincidence he was a candidate for heart disease.
Because Muffin primarily hunted water fowl, he quickly realized that skipping rocks, was the most efficient way to hit and kill his dinner for the night.
As he ventured into the thick brush, the skill acquired from skipping rocks played well for Muffin.
But on the other side of the world, the game was totally different for ole’ Pound Cake (Dukes of Hazard voice).
Pound Cake, was hunting much larger game than Muffin and he was the guy nobody wanted to throw with, if that ever happened back then.
However, he didn’t encounter the constraints of trees, and water was hard to find. So, Pound Cake could let it fly with his inverted w!
Due to each possessing a different intent, and living in two totally different environments, something strange evolved!
Something that would have the Beauty Pageant Judges and Swiss Army Knives (3 in 1 pitching experts), demanding they change, or they would never hunt again.
- Muffin established a low 3/4 arm slot that developed from skipping rock after rock.
- Pound Cake developed a higher arm slot because his survival depended upon throwing the rock harder and straighter.
But, luckily for both, neither experienced the side effects of video analysis. They simply relied on:
They were lucky and it amazes me that they were able to accomplish this and put food on the table without:
- Video analysis
- Scientific research
And, there were no “rock throwing coaches”, only a village idiot who had a habit of asking others to smell his finger.
The moral of the story?
- Every pitcher is different, and there are so many factors that attribute to your mechanics, and start the very first time you pick up a ball and make a throw.
- Your pitching Form isn’t what’s important, how your body function is what’s important!
- Your set of pitching mechanics are unique to you, again they start early in life and are shaped by many different factors.
What if the village idiot suddenly took over the pitching duties?
- How successful would Muffing and Pound Cake be as a provider, if they were constantly being told, to throw like the hunter in the other village, or…
- How successful would Muffin be in his world, if he attempted to emulate what Pound Cake was doing?
“Hit your target, but do it as I tell you, don’t worry about the goal… focus on how you look, while attempting to achieve the goal!” the village idiot yelled.
How does this “true” story relate to the epidemic of arm injuries?
- Too often, us pitching coaches make the mistake of believing changing mechanics is easy and any time a player is conscious of movement, it will appear as inefficient movement. (Poor mechanics)
- We make the fatal mistake of believing every pitcher should “look” a certain way, we even point out still pictures, and pause video in static positions to highlight our views of good mechanics, useless!
- You will never, ever repeat the same delivery twice, so what makes you think you could repeat someone else’s?
Here some things you need to consider before attempting to make mechanical changes:
- Your body will organize itself, to give you ,the best chance to accomplish your movement goal, it’s called intent.
- The more throws you make with your unique set of pitching mechanics, the tougher they are to change.
- Once pitchers reach Stage 3 inside the motor development process, (you move without conscious thought, often called muscle memory, but not correct), your body is accustomed to recruiting the surrounding tissue to assist in throwing the ball as efficient as it knows how.
Think: Whenever you go to the weight room and change up your routine, however minor, do you experience soreness that’s not typical?
The Negative Cycle That Keeps Pitchers Coming Back For More Lessons:
A. The pitcher receives a video review, is compared to an entirely different nervous system, sorry pitcher.
B. The pitcher instructor points out all the flaws, and the pitcher goes to work trying to achieve proper mechanics.
C. He comes back, it looks better, he’s tries his best to imitate what’s seen on the screen, but the velocity is not there…
D. Or… the pitcher comes back over and over again, but can’t change his mechanics, but why?
Because too often, pitching coaches focus on the form (What we see and mistake as pitching mechanics), when in reality , the pitcher is suffering from movement constraints.
- Hip mobility
- Thoracic mobility, etc…
- And of course, the ALMIGHTY nervous system!
Think: Movement deficiencies can often be mis-diagnosed as poor mechanics, so you hire a pitching coach versus addressing your movement deficiencies, which only increases your risk for injury!
So, what happens is this: The pitching coach treats the symptom, not the cause! Over and over again, therefore, the pitcher is compounding the issue over and over again. Thanks video analysis!
Scientific principles of the story (sort of):
- My nervous system is different than yours, if I attempt to move based on your version of “proper mechanics”, I’m at risk for injury.
- The body will make specific adaptations due to the imposed demand (SAID Principle), as long they are introduced properly.
- Your pitching mechanics are like apps on your iPhone, its not muscle memory, its a series of motor programs that have developed over time. Unfortunately, your apps can’t be updated as easily as an iPhone!
I’m going to conclude part 1 of this article with this…
13 risk factors to arm injuries that everyone thinks is OK!
- Pitchers that are exposed to multiple pitching coaches are at higher risk, period!
- Attempting to make changes every time someone draws squiggly lines on a video screen, and asks you to move accordingly, increases your risk for injury!
- Attempting to change a kids arm slot, increases the risk for injury! ( I know this for a reason, I was the village idiot!!)
- Attempting to make changes to your pitching mechanics during a competitive season, increases your risk for injury!
- Whenever, you attempt to change arm action, you’re at risk for injury or poor performance.
- If you’re constantly throwing in front of a video camera, and its someone else analyzing it, you’re at risk!
- Modeling your mechanics or attempting to imitate another pitchers mechanics, puts you at risk! (Depends on the age how developed and how deeply the motor programs are ingrained into the CNS)
- Following the one-size fits all velocity programs and weight training programs, increases your risk!
- Following a mechanical model, in which every pitcher on the staff is attempting to acquire the same patterns, puts you at risk.
- If you specialize in one sport, and play travel ball, and focus more on pitching than throwing, you’re at risk!
- If you believe that your pitching mechanics alone are the #1 risk factor for injury, you’re at risk for injury!
- If you fail to weigh the risk vs. reward before making mechanical changes, you’re at risk for injury!
- If you throw a baseball, you’re at risk for injury!
Bonus: The story of Wil Browning
Back when I was coaching college baseball, I had pitcher named Wil Browning. Wil was a side-arm pitcher and a very good one, in fact, you can see his stats in pro ball here.
Wil was worried he wouldn’t be drafted due to his velocity. Therefore, he asked if he could begin throwing over the top, to increase his velocity and his chances.
I was hesitant at first, but being the village idiot, I gave him my blessing. Low and behold, his velocity immediately spiked. He went from 84-87 to 89-92 with a minor (WRONG) change.
That week, he went out and threw a gem against South Alabama, and everyone was happy. The next morning, I get a knock on the hotel door and guess what? Wil”s elbow was black and blue, he was out for the year with Tommy John surgery.
Why did this happen?
- Was it simply due to more force on the arm? Possibly.
- Was it due to him changing the arm slot, which required the body to recruit differently? Yes, I think so.
- Or was it a combination? Yes, I think so.
- Was it something that happened prior to, a build up process of micro-tears? I wouldn’t rule that out, but he had never, experienced any sign or symptom, and over-use wasn’t the case.
My final thoughts, Wil’s body wasn’t prepared for the demands of the activity (SAID Principle). It was shocked, the soft tissue encountered a communication barrier, the nervous system was in disarray and the smaller muscle groups weren’t prepared, nor was the rest of the body.
Here’s what you can expect in the next few posts detailing the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries…
- Why Dr. House, not Tom House, said it best about video analysis and he’s absolutely right…Plus, the correlation between velocity and mate selection.
- Why MLB specialists don’t communicate enough, but internet pitching coaches, whom don’t specialize in anything, communicate way too much!
- Why comparing a cadaver’s ucl to a real pitchers’, is comparable to the communication channels and support system, you had with your ex-wife!
- Why Dr. Scholl’s foot-powder is much more effective to treat the inverted w, than a connection ball.
- Why long toss isn’t dangerous, but I would never encourage 3/4 arm slot or lower, throw long toss.
Before you leave, do me a favor:
Check out my summer programs, because I’m releasing a new product that doesn’t require changes to your mechanics, it let’s Peer Pressure do it for you!