I'm back talking about baseball again... I would apologize, but it's definitely going to happen more!
Spring and summer baseball is in full swing. Now that the cold has finally left us, baseball tournaments are pretty much every weekend around here. It's pretty common for youth leagues to have 3-5 games in a weekend (which is crazy, in my opinion), and so with more baseball comes the risk of more injury, especially for the pitchers.
But what if I told you that arm fatigue may not be from the arm?
It's fairly well known and documented that player fatigue is correlated with a higher rate of injuries, and youth players are more likely to pitch in multiple games in a day and rest less. This is a big reason USA Baseball started the PitchSmart program, a guideline to how many pitches a player should throw dependent on their age.
So we know too much pitching can lead to injury, but it is arm fatigue that is leading to these injuries? Some studies may show otherwise...
A study done in 2016 by Chalmers et al showed that fatigue and a drop in velocity is normal within a game situation. What they found, however, that the loss of velocity is not due to arm speed, but actually to leg muscle fatigue first. This study demonstrates that velocity may be directly more correlated with leg strength than arm speed! But if you look up all these programs online, every coach promises you more arm speed or strength. Maintaining shoulder-hip separation, proper thoracic flexion and rotation, landing leg knee flexion, and total shoulder range of motion are also important factors into pitching injuries.
We talk a lot about arm injuries when speaking of pitchers because it is the most common injury to happen! If you look at our blog from March 28th, you can see what the chances of being injured and what that injury is. It's important to discuss because we are seeing a significant increase in youth and adolescent injuries and surgeries. While we may not know EXACTLY what's causing this rise, we have an educated guess as to multiple reasons why and try to hit all of the factors involved.
Remember when I said leg fatigue leads to lower velocity? To me, this is one of the EASIEST fixes in sports! Although it's not glorified like football, strength training is incredibly important for a baseball player. All of the power for a baseball player comes from the legs, whether it's pitching, throwing, running, or hitting. Without properly strengthening the body, you are losing out on power potential! Now I know that strength training isn't fun, nor does it make for good stats and Instagram posts. I get it, chicks dig the long ball. But in order to hit home runs, throw a nasty fastball or breaking ball, or throw out the runner at home, you have to prepare your body. And that preparation is a combination of skill work, strength training, mobility and body care, and just general maturity.
It's easy to focus on what hurts- it's much more difficult to focus on what is causing the pain to begin with.