Home Posts tagged "Pitching Injuries" (Page 12)

Clearing up the Rotator Cuff Controversy

The college coach of one of our current pro baseball players was asking me about the rotator cuff program he's doing with us now, and I figured I'd turn it into today's topic.  We take a bit of a different approach with it than you'll see with a lot of guys in the industry, and it's basically dictated by three assertions/assumptions: 1. The true function of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the humeral head on the glenoid (shoulder socket).  While external rotation is important for deceleration of the crazy internal rotation velocity seen with throwing, it's stabilization that we're really after. As you can see, the humeral head is too large to allow for great surface area contact with the glenoid.

glenoid

My feeling is that the bigger muscles - particularly scapular stabilizers, the core, and the lower half - will decelerate the crazy velocities we see as long as mechanics are effective and the deceleration arc is long enough.

robertson

2. The shoulder internally rotates at over 7,000°/s during acceleration; that's the fastest motion in all of sports.  There's no way that the rotator cuff muscles alone with their small cross-sectional area can decelerate it.  And, to take it a step further, there isn't much that some rubber tubing is going to do to help the cause (aside from just promoting blood flow - although I'd rather get that in a more global sense with full-body flexibility circuits, as I discussed HERE).

More important than blood flow is getting range of motion (ROM) back (particularly elbow extension and shoulder internal rotation) after a pitching outing.  In my experience, losses in ROM get guys injured faster than weakness, in my experience.  I've seen quite a few people come to me who have healthy shoulders, but test poorly on classic rotator cuff strength measures.  Why?  Perhaps they are very strong in their scapular stabilizers, core, and lower half and have become efficient enough to handle more of the deceleration demands in areas other than the rotator cuff.  Or, they may just be lucky; rotator cuff strength is still important!

3. We've mocked on the conventional bodybuilding community for training muscles and not movements: chest day, quads day - you get the picture.  Meanwhile, the baseball community is devoting five days a week to training muscles with cross-sectional areas smaller than any of these!

I've had multiple discussions with Mike Reinold that reaffirm this indirectly; he emphasizes that one should never train the rotator cuff to failure, as that's not how it works in the real world.  Our job is to enhance not just its strength, but also its proprioception and rate of force development.  If we chronically abuse it with training on top of the crazy demands of throwing, we never really know how strong the rotator cuff actually is. It makes you wonder how many guys in the baseball world actually have exhausted and chronically overtrained rotator cuff muscles as opposed to weak rotator cuff muscles!

With these three assertions in mind, most of our guys in the off-season will have four days of rotator cuff work spread out over two "types" of training.  Days 1 and 3 (say, Monday and Thursday) would be more rhythmic stabilization drills similar to this (although the options are really only limited by your imagination):

The other two days are more classic rotator cuff work that prioritizes external rotation and horizontal abduction (we never do empty cans).  I do a lot of work with cables here, plus a lot in the side-lying position (EMG activity for the cuff is highest here).

We'll also do a lot of manual resistance external rotation stuff, as it kind of "blends" conventional cuff work with rhythmic stabilizations due to the unstable load. Here's one option:

Later in the off-season, we'll throw in some one-arm medicine ball deceleration catches and external rotation tosses to the wall to get the thoracic spine and hips ready for the full-body demands of throwing.

Keep in mind that - as I noted - rotator cuff exercises are just one piece of the puzzle.  These are one component of a larger overall plan that addresses not only scapular stability, but also total body strength and mobility, soft tissue quality, medicine ball work, movement training, and the actual throwing program.

For more information (actually a LOT more information), check out the DVD set, Optimal Shoulder Performance: From Rehabilitation to High Performance from Mike Reinold and I.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial.
Name
Email
Read more

When Should Kids Learn Curveballs?

Today, we've got the first in a series of Q&A contributions from Matt Blake. Q: What do you think of Ron Johnson's presentation at the ABCA convention where he stated that curveballs are okay for youths to throw and that they do not cause any structural damage beyond what a fastball does? Rather, it was the frequency the curveball was thrown that was the indicator. A: I was at Ron Johnson's presentation and have had the chance to read much of the research that has been presented on this topic. I do generally agree that curveballs are not inherently more dangerous than fastballs, but I think the idea of curveballs sends a conflicting message at the youth levels.

youthpitcher

Fundamentally, I'd like to believe that this game is centered around the pitcher being able to locate a fastball to the center of the plate 100 out of 100 times. Obviously, this is an idealistic perspective, but above average fastball command should be the trademark of an advanced youth player, not the fact that he can spin a baseball with his hand in a supinated position so that he can fool unsuspecting 11 year olds. We don't teach hitters to focus on curveballs at this age, so why should we teach pitchers to throw them? Squaring up the fastball over the middle of the plate is step one for both hitters and pitchers. In order to put a player in the best chance to succeed down the road, I think a pitcher should be able to repeat his fastball mechanics and create a certain amount of hand-speed, before he is taught to craft his pitching skills. This is generally considered to be a throwing mechanics versus pitching skills debate and would prioritize mechanical knowledge and the sequencing of the body's rotations.

youthpitcher2

If a player has demonstrated above average command of his fastball to the center of the plate, then obviously, the next progression would begin to zone the plate off for him. Once he can dissect the lanes of the plate with a straight fastball, then maybe teach him a different grip on the fastball or even a changeup. Start by working the changeup down the middle, etc....This game is built on efficient pitching, so to skip steps at these early developmental levels or to place too great an emphasis on winning at this age would compromise the player's development. Obviously, all of this is just simply my opinion. When would I teach a breaking ball? I guess it would be when a player looks skeletally mature to repeat his delivery and can demonstrate effective use of his fastball/changeup combination. If these pieces are set as the foundation, introducing spin tilt and depth might follow. If a player at the age of 11 or 12 is capable of doing this because he has put the necessary repetition in, then I suppose you can't hold him back, but for some reason, I think people might be skipping steps 2 and 3 to get to 4, because 4 gets outs easier at age 12. Have a question for Matt?  Drop him an email at mablak07@gmail.com. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

Talking Pitching: A Recap of the 2010 ABCA Pitching “Hot Stove” Discussion

Today, we've got another great guest post from Matt Blake. "If I embark on a voyage of exploration, and I set as my goals the willingness to follow any lead, pursue any interesting observation, overcome any difficulties, and I end up in some exotic locale that might be very different from my predictions before setting out, have I changed my destination in any way? I would say not; the sine qua non of science is not the conclusions we reach but the process we use to arrive at them, and that is the polestar by which we navigate." -PZ Myers, Biologist, University of Minnesota One might ask why the heck a pitching coach is leading off his article on a fitness expert's blog with a quote from a biologist, and how it would have any relevance to the topic at hand. Where could this possibly be going? Well, I recently attended the American Baseball Coaches Association "Hot Stove" Pitching Discussion in Dallas, Texas on January 10th with about 200-300 coaches from all over the country.  And, I would say that this notion was the overriding theme to take away from the event. This "Hot Stove" pitching discussion was part of the bigger national convention that takes place every year. This event provided an outstanding forum for people to hear some leading thinkers in baseball discuss pitching in an informal public setting. Some of the notable attendees of this event were Tom House, Alan Jaeger, Brent Strom, and Derek Johnson.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with these names, I'll give you a brief description of each. Tom House is a former major leaguer, former major league pitching coach, and is regarded as one of the great modern day pitching gurus and currently coaches at the University of Southern California. Alan Jaeger runs Jaegersports.com and has an outstanding understanding of long toss, arm care and how it should be applied to your player's development.

jaeger

Brent Strom is a former major leaguer, is an instructor in the St. Louis Cardinals system, and teams up with Ron Wolforth to run the Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp every year. They also run some outstanding Elite Pitcher Bootcamps during the summer. These two presented early in the weekend and are proponents of the "Blending" and "Chunking" theories and advocate for training pitchers through the use of athletic and aggressive throwing drills. Derek Johnson is currently the Pitching Coach at Vanderbilt University and is regarded as one of the premier pitching coaches in the country. Producing ten drafted pitchers (including three first-rounders) over the last three years will usually do that. Honestly, this is just a handful of people in a room that included dozens of D1/D2/D3 pitching coaches, as well as numerous outstanding high school coaches, but these guys really stand out with their contributions to the pitching community's knowledge base. Tom House did his part by speaking to the crowd about the importance of being able to accept new ideas that run counter to your current train of thought. He brought up an interesting point regarding the need to be strong enough to change your positions and adapt your training methods as the information presented to you deems necessary. This is not too far from what you see happening on the strength and conditioning front every day. If I remember correctly, it wasn't too long ago that Mike Boyle questioned the value of the almighty squat. Who would have thunk it?  This is a great example of a man following a process of logical thought to create his own philosophy even if it runs counter to much of the traditional thought. You don't need to agree with him on this, as we still use a lot of squatting variations at Cressey Performance, but based on his interpretation of the research, this is what he thought gave him the best value in the risk/reward category for his athletes. On the baseball side, this idea was none more evident than when Tom House was challenged about the effectiveness of the towel drill and admitted he was wrong about this drill in its original form. This drill has been a staple in many pitching coaches' dry work for years. In coming to understand where the towel drill was lacking, Tom has recently changed the weight of the implement in the drill from 2 oz to 5/6/7oz depending on the training intentions. This essentially changed the deceleration demands to be more similar to a baseball and worked to counter the argument at hand, by letting everyone know, that as science has progressed he has needed to adapt his training methods.

mark-prior-towel

One of the other important topics that House brought up was the need to understand the science behind the overhead throw. If we expect to train players at the highest level, we need to know what is actually happening in the body. By incorporating information relating to a player's "Kinematic Sequence," one is more apt to see where players are either efficient or inefficient in creating energy and delivering force to the ball. Understanding the sequencing of the body's rotations is essential to getting the timing of the delivery right and avoiding stressful mechanic flaws.

chapman

The way he phrased it may or may not have gone over a lot of coaches' heads and split the camp into science-based vs. common sense/feel coaches.  But, I obviously believe Tom is right on this point or I wouldn't spend my waking life in Eric's facility. On the flip side, I can also understand where coaches who do not naturally gravitate to the analytical style would find other ways to communicate this information than the technical jargon House used. At the end of the day, your players either understand what you're saying or they don't.  If they don't, you need to come back to their level of thought before they tune you out. Along these lines, one of the points I strongly agree with Tom on is the need to look at the golf industry and how advanced their level of instruction is in the private sector. Greg Rose and the people of the Titleist Performance Institute are doing some great things on the technology front, as far as analyzing swings and doing physical assessments to improve golf technique. Obviously, this is a different beast with the way their market dynamics have been established, but there is enough money within the baseball industry to start dedicating some of our resources to making sure we have the best information available to the general public. The rate at which players are getting injured because people are simply uninformed is not okay in this supposed "Information Age."

Layout 1

One of the refreshing things to see is that people are at least beginning to recognize that we can't be so rigid in our approach to training pitchers. We are just now leaving an era where we thought we had all the answers and we could box up our pitchers to 90 degree angles and call it a day. Funny that injuries are up at nearly every level of the game from little league to the Pros, so obviously something isn't working. With that said, I'll leave you with one last short story that Tom House provided us at the convention. It has do with a time when he was coaching Nolan Ryan on the Texas Rangers. Nolan credits a lot of his success later on in his career due to the physical shape Coach House got him in.  Obviously, this is a second-hand retelling of a story, so I'll leave it up to Tom to come over to Ericcressey.com and correct me in the comments section, but I think you'll get the gist. As many of you know, Coach House is famous for really being a pioneer on the biomechanical analysis front. One day, House was attempting to talk to Nolan Ryan about his famously high leg kick, by letting him know that it might make more sense to bring his leg kick down a bit and get himself a little more under control. In Nolan Ryan's Texan drawl, he calmly responded, "Tom, with all due respect sir... I understand you know a lot about the game, but if there's one thing I know.... It's that the higher I lift my leg here, the harder I'm gonna throw this baseball. So you can go ahead and stick that in your computer of yours." And if that doesn't bring this discussion full circle, I'm not quite sure what will.

nolan-ryan

In the end, I think as important as it is to follow the research, it is just as important to let the common sense/feel aspects drive the questions being researched. Obviously, science is continuously digging deeper, but if we don't listen to our athletes, we may be digging in the wrong places. Like I've said before, the athlete throws the baseball, so giving them the necessary information and letting them find their own signature style with it is essential to their development. Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com. Related Posts A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 1 Philosophizing from Goliath's Shoulders A Baseball Training Interview with Eric Cressey Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

The Figure 8 Drill for Pitchers

Another great guest post from Matt Blake today.  A quick thanks go out to Chad Rodgers, Shawn Haviland, and Tim Collins for their help in demonstrating the drill for this blog. I hope you all have been able to get through the holiday madness and kick off your 2010 with all sorts of new resolutions that will be forgotten by the third week in January (kidding, but not really).  Seriously, though, there's no time better than the present to start making yourself a better human and if tying it to 1/14/10 helps the cause, then I'm all for it. With that being said, here's my attempt at contributing to a healthier 2010 for the amateur pitching community. Here is one drill in particular that I like to use in our lead-up drill progression. It is called the "Figure 8" and it is based off the staple of everyone's flat-ground work, the stride drill.  Typically, I place this as the 2nd or 3rd drill in a progression depending on how many pieces we want to isolate before incorporating some rhythm into what is normally a static drill.

As you can see, this drill is looking to iron out multiple pieces of a player's delivery, while we still have them in a rather stationary position.  When this drill is introduced to the player, I like to channel their focus toward the importance of having a consistent rhythm and tempo while developing hand speed during their throw. There should be coordination between the upper and lower body as they make horizontal figure 8's with their hands, and this should coincide with them shifting their weight from the front leg to the back leg. Typically, I have them make three figure 8s before they throw, and eventually manipulate the amount of time spent developing rhythm as deemed fit over the course of their progression. As they finish their third figure 8 with their lower half weight shift going to the back leg, they should begin to break their hands and load up to throw. Typically, at this point in the lead-up drill progression, they are finishing their throw and allowing their back leg to come through, whereas we might cue them to focus on the timing and completion of their back hip rotation by keeping their feet on the ground in preceding drills. Some players can be a little rigid through this drill the first few times. I think this is mostly because they can't believe I'm actually asking them to make silly figure 8s with their hands and display their lack of rhythm in front of their friends. Once they get over this anxiety, they tend to gravitate towards using variations of this drill on their own, because it provides a lot of feedback for them while getting loose.

In the early going, I think it's important to avoid too much cueing of the player into certain positions and more about allowing the pitcher to find a rhythm that he is comfortable with. I also typically allow the player to interpret how the actual figure 8 is made with the hands, because the drill is really more about understanding how the upper and lower body work in coordination than it is about us arguing over the shape of an hourglass. This is apparent in the videos themselves, where you can plainly see that each player interprets the drill slightly different and uses his signature style in creating the 8s.

As a coach, this allows me to get a better feel for a player's ability to shift his weight, his sense of posture and balance, and his understanding of extension at release, among other things. Several of these features will usually be covered up front by the stride drill, which I skipped over discussing today, but I could certainly address at a later time if people are interested. By adding in the extra movement to the otherwise static stride drill, we are able to flush out a player's natural movement patterns a lot better and I can begin to see which pieces of their overall delivery may be easier to address. This information will continue to build into the next drill, which we call "balance and break," and is really a blend of the traditional balance drills with a little more movement and repetition tied in with the timing of the hand break and arm action. For the most part, all of the lead-up drills I choose to put in before I get a player on the mound are designed to incorporate certain principles of throwing that have been demonstrated in the research of elite level throwers over the years. This may include anything from hip/shoulder separation, degrees of external/internal shoulder rotation, degrees of trunk extension, etc. With that being said, I don't necessarily have one mechanical model in my head, but more of a host of models that fit each particular body type and level of coordination.  This is especially true concerning their current mobility and flexibility limitations. This idea that each player has a mechanical model that is unique to them is the key component, and in order to flush this model out, the player has to be able to breathe while working through his drills. If you suffocate a player with too much technical talk, it takes away from what they want to do naturally and forces them into something that you think they should do, rather than what is right for the player. The other challenge in all of this is that you may have the ultimate mechanical model in your head of how every pitcher should pitch, but until that player understands what mechanical model best fits his genetic traits, your model is irrelevant. The only way to get a player to understand this information is for him to feel it for himself. Yes, we have a lot of science out now that describes what positions elite throwers are in at certain points in their delivery. The problem rests with the fact that there is a lot of gray area for how these players are getting to each of these positions in coordination with the end result of throwing to a target. I've seen some of the ASMI motion analysis reports of players, which are very comprehensive in nature, but even so, these leave room for interpretation.  As has been seen over the years (and is currently being demonstrated, and will continue to be displayed down the road), there is more than one way to throw a ball 90+ mph hour. If I were to tell a 5'7" 165lb pitcher and 6'4" 245 lb pitcher to throw the baseball the same way, I wouldn't be doing either of them justice. We obviously advise players away from certain motor patterns that have demonstrated more stress than others, but ultimately this is the challenge in training baseball players. There is so much going on inside the body of a baseball player - not just creating velocity, but also command and deception (and with multiple pitches) - that I'm going to trust the player when he tells me what feels right and what doesn't. To create unnecessary tension in a player because my eyes think they interpret a better position would be absurd. Don't get me wrong, we address a lot of mechanical issues with the use of slow-motion video analysis, but I always listen to the player over what a playback device tells me.

sidearms

At the end of the day, we know there are inherent risks with throwing a baseball 95 mph. Do we say you can't throw that hard anymore because it is not a healthy behavior for your body? Do we limit a player to one particular model that someone thinks is the be-all end-all cure for arm injuries? Well, some do - but Eric and I disagree with that pigeonholing wholeheartedly. Why would we narrow our pitching thoughts down to one exact voice that indicates there is only one way to pitch to stay healthy? This just doesn't seem logical to me. I am not going to dismiss their voice, but I want to see proof that what they're talking about works. I want to see positive results on a big stage. If there are no results that suggest it has the most consistent performance tied to it, then I can't say I'm done looking for more information. I think you have to acknowledge the notion that effective pitching may not be healthy at all, and by doing so, embrace this idea in the way you prepare a player's arm to handle the stress. This ultimately starts with giving the player room to breathe so they can foster a rhythm and tempo that allows them the best chance to create and disperse energy in the coordinated act of throwing a baseball. Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com. Related Posts Developing Young Pitchers the Safe Way The Best Baseball Resource Out There Recap: Testing, Treating, and Training the Shoulder: From Rehab to High Performance

shoulder-performance-dvdcover

Click here to purchase the most comprehensive shoulder resource available today: Optimal Shoulder Performance - From Rehabilitation to High Performance. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

Why Do Some Guys Come Back to Pitch Better after Tommy John Surgery?

Q: I was wondering the other day about why guys often come back from Tommy John surgery pitching better and harder than they did before.  My first thought was they can't do any upper-body strength training for months while they recover from the surgery, so they're forced to work on lower body, core, and mobility - and, in turn, come back as better conditioned athletes with more control and velocity.  Or, do you think their improved velocity and command is just an illusion made possible because we're comparing them to the way they pitched while they were hurt, but not yet "disabled?"  Or, is there another factor I'm missing altogether? I figure there's a sample-size issue -- we're just looking at the guys who make it all the way back, and ignoring the ones who don't.

A: It's an excellent question - and one I actually get quite a bit.   I'd say that it's a combination of all three.

In my eyes, an ulnar collateral ligament tear is usually an injury that speaks to YEARS of dysfunction and accumulated stress.  Guys usually have a history of elbow pain/soreness in their teenage years, some calcification on the UCL, and then it finally goes in their college/pro years.  They may have been managed conservatively (physical therapy) for a long time just because doctors don't like doing surgeries on 16-year-olds.  However, when they're 20, it becomes "acceptable" to do a Tommy John surgery.

scar

In the meantime, many of these injured pitchers will modify their deliveries to avoid the pain and end up with some crazy mechanics that leave the ball all over the place at erratic radar gun readings.  So, that can usually cover the velocity drop and control issues.  This is in stark contrast to what you'll see with serious injuries to the labrum (SLAP2 lesions), which generally give you the quick velocity drop, and eventually, loss of control - even in the absence of pain.  Elbow stuff doesn't usually directly influence velocity as quickly; a lot of guys can throw through it for years.

elbow

So, yes, we are comparing them to their pre-injury numbers.  However, there is - at least in my eyes - a better reason.

They are often lazy and inconsistent with their training and arm care before they get hurt.  Quite often, you'll see an ACL reconstruction leg coming back and being stronger than the uninjured side long-term.  The same thing can happen with a Tommy John.  The rehab is crazy long, so guys have time to learn arm care as religion and - as you noted - focus on athletic qualities that are often partially or entirely "squeezed out" by competing demands.

I remember talking with Curt Schilling along these lines - although it was with respect to his shoulder.  He had a shoulder surgery in 1995, and it made him "religious" about arm care.  His best years came years after that even though he'd gotten older.

curt-schilling1

So, usually, the guys who wind up throwing harder are just the ones who were lazy in the first place and were finally forced into actually taking care of their bodies.  The guys who DO take good care of their arms and wind up tearing UCLs rarely come back throwing harder, and to be frank, probably have a lower chance of returning to their former selves than their lazy counterparts.

Of course, this obviously excludes issues with the graft type (autograft or allograft), graft site (Palmaris longus, hamstrings, or another site), surgeon's abilities, physical therapy, athlete motivation, strength and conditioning, and return-to-throwing progression.

To learn more about assessment and management of the throwing elbow, check out my Everything Elbow In-Service video.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
Read more

Shortening the Learning Loop with Effective Communication

Note from EC: Great content from Matt Blake today.  If you want to read more of Matt's stuff, enter his name in the search box to the right of your screen, and you'll get some of his previous writing here. Since the Christmas pre-sale is over on the 95 MPH arm, I figured I would follow up with some more insight into the way we are working with a wide range of pitchers here at Cressey Performance. To give you perspective, recent throwing sessions in the CP cage have included anything from minor leaguers working through controlled  flat-ground drills and some simulated long-toss, to high-school guys working on velocity drills or throwing bullpens getting ready for college winter camps (for better or worse). We've also had a handful of players come to us following injuries as they try to build their arms back up from essentially scratch. With the wide variety of development and training that needs to take place as a result of these different situations, a strong need emerges for an effective communication style with your athlete. For me, this is tremendously important if I expect to push a player in a sport that will have 57% of their population suffer some form of shoulder injury during a playing season (1).  It seems a little absurd to think that more than half the athletes in this population will get hurt in a given season, but it's not that crazy when you consider the fact that we're asking the shoulder to internally rotate at velocities greater than 7,000 degrees/second and the elbow to extend at 2,000+ degrees/s during the throwing motion. If that's not bad enough, at maximum external rotation the torque placed on the elbow is equivalent to 40lbs pulling down on the hand.  When all of this is considered, it becomes clear how serious it is to actually ask an athlete to perform 80-100 repetitions of a skill at near human capacity.

jasonschmidt

Once you understand the implications of what you are requesting your player to do, the ability to effectively communicate in a manner that gains quality feedback from your pitcher becomes essential. With the tremendous amount of stress being placed on the body and no objective way to know how a particular player's arm or body feels during practice or competition, we need to have open lines of communication to make sure each and every piece is monitored for stress. Obviously the easiest way to gather information is to verbally ask players how they are feeling, or have them rate their fatigue on a 1-10 scale with 1 being, "My arm feels like gold", and 10 being, "I think I just tore something". The only problem with this is that every player will have a slightly different pain threshold and one person's "3" may be another person's "6."  So, if you are going to use this scale, it is important to stay on top of it and ask the player on a regular basis to calibrate the stress and watch how it slides one way or the other as they get loose or as the discomfort begins to build.

pedro-749419

The other problem with the verbal scale is that you have to account for each player's personality and level of competitiveness. Some players will run themselves through a wall and not think twice about the damage they could be doing. These players will under-report their pain levels in an attempt to continue throwing.  With players like this, you need to resort to other means of monitoring pain levels. This is where understanding a player's natural temperament is important. By knowing how a player normally acts, picking up subtle behavioral cues can play a large part in identifying underlying pain. These subtle behaviors can include anything from the way they make eye contact, their facial expressions and head talk, body gestures, postural changes, etc... For example, if they grimace after throwing, shake out their arm after throws, or cross their arms when they're standing still, then you are probably looking at some tenderness building somewhere in the arm. Mechanically, you can watch the elbow/arm slot begin to drop as they throw, the torso might become more upright, and the ball to begin to stay up in the zone more often. Velocity changes may or may not occur as well. As you begin to see one or more of these traits, it's important to make sure you open the dialogue with the player to make them verbalize how the arm feels.

mikefetters

Identifying these traits and gaining trust from your pitcher to speak honestly with you about his arm's health is the foundation for developing them to their ceiling. Once you understand how much a player can be pushed while maintaining a healthy volume or amplitude, driving the development with this same mindset becomes just as critical. One of the problems that I believe stands in the way of a lot of players/athletes in their personal development tends to be their inability to relate to new information that you are trying to give them. It's not that they weren't listening or the fact that what you gave them was right or wrong, but more that it didn't fit neatly with what they had previously learned. Different personalities, different backgrounds, different learning styles, can't all be expected to work off the same lesson plan.

rocker

Each piece of the development needs to be looked at dynamically to see how the information is registering for the player. Two of the main things I work hard to identify early in the process are: 1) what style of learning does the player prefer? 2) where are they in their development? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can begin to provide the necessary information in the right form for the player, so they understand why they would want to apply it and, more importantly, how they apply the new information. By using multiple avenues to find out what the player is looking to learn or needs to learn, you can optimize the use of certain tools to flush out higher levels of performance. One of the main tools we use here is slow-motion video analysis. I find this to be very effective in getting everyone on the same page regarding what is actually happening during these highly complex movements. From there, we'll agree on a plan of action going forward that might use lead-up drills, velocity drills, weighted baseballs, medicine balls, etc. All of these pieces help to teach something, whether it be rate of force development, knowledge of the kinetic chain, or simply a consistent rhythm and tempo in the delivery.

Obviously, the examples I'm using here are baseball related, but this can be just as easily applied to strength and conditioning, as well as other skill-specific sports. It really just comes down to the proper application of each drill or exercise with targeted work that fits the developmental needs of the athlete. If player and coach are effectively communicating, the learning loop can certainly be shortened and the sky is the limit for your athletes' development. With that said, I hope everyone enjoys the holidays and the rest of 2009, and I certainly look forward to continuing this ongoing conversation with you guys in 2010. References 1. Ouelette, H et al. Spectrum of Shoulder injuries in the baseball pitcher. Skeletal Radiol. 2007 Oct 3. 2. Fleisig, GS. The Biomechanics of Baseball Pitching. Spring 2008 Southeast ACSM Conference.

Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

Random Friday Thoughts: 12/11/09

1. Sorry for the slower week here on the blog.  In addition to trying to catch up from my three days in Houston, I had a few projects that needed to get sorted out this week.  For starters, we had to finalize the agenda for my seminar in Vancouver in March. And, the bigger task of late has been finishing up a chapter (on baseball testing and training) that I'm contributing to Dr. Craig Liebenson's newest book.  Others contributing include Dr. Stuart McGill, Sue Falsone (Athletes Performance), Dr. Ben Kibler, Dr. Pavel Kolar, Ken Crenshaw (Arizona Diamondbacks), and Mike Boyle (among others).  Needless to say, I'm lucky to be in such awesome company, and you'll definitely want to check it out once it's available.  In the meantime, you might be interested in Liebenson's most popular work, Rehabilitation of the Spine: A Practitioner's Manual.

rehabofthespine

2. Mike Reinold and I are also working on getting our seminar, Testing, Treating, and Training the Shoulder: From Rehabilitation to High Performance, ready for production and sale.  We're hoping it'll be ready by the first of the year, but only time will tell; editing takes time, and it's out of our hands now!  Speaking of Mike, he just posted a blog outlining the recently revised pitch count rules.  If you coach young players or one of your kids plays ball, definitely check it out HERE.

3. On the topic of little league, the clinic with Matt Blake and I at Cressey Performance on Tuesday night was pretty popular with local coaches.  One of the things that Matt and I tried to stress is that kids almost never get hurt for JUST one reason.  Usually, injuries are multifactorial, so you have to look at a host of different causes - from overuse, to physical limitations (weakness or immobility), to mechanical flaws in the pitching delivery.

The questions we received gave me some ideas for future posts, so keep an eye out for those in the not-so-distant future.  Along those same lines, if there are specific baseball development questions you'd like covered, feel free to post some suggestions here as a reply to this blog.

4. I got the following question the other day, and thought it might make for a quick Q&A here:

Q: I am planning on training Westside style but I do not have access to bands and chains (or any other special equipment for that matter). What should I do to change up my dynamic effort days? Should I just use variations of the lifts (i.e. close grip vs regular grip bench, sumo vs conventional deadlifts)?

A: The whole idea that you absolutely have to have bands, chains, and specialized bars to learn from the Westside school of thought (which is constantly evolving anyway) couldn't be further from the truth.  There are bits and pieces borrowed from Westside teachings in Maximum Strength, and you'll see that there is plenty of rotation among movements in the four-month program - and the assumption is that you don't have any of these goodies.  Rotating among back squats and front squats (without a box, with a box, or from pins) and deadlifts will give you a great rotation of movements.

Cressey_9781600940576.indd

Regarding dynamic effort days, I don't think it's as important to rotate exercises on a regular basis, as this speed work is there to improve bar speed on that specific movement and help you groove the movement pattern itself.  However, if you want to change it up, it's not too difficult.

In the lower body, simply go to a different deadlift or squat variation, or change the percentage at which you're working.  In the upper body, you can change the grip width on the bench press, do some plyo push-ups, or even just throw the medicine ball around.

5. I'm going to see The Nutcracker tonight with my fiancee.  In the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

6. I will, however, say that I'm a little bummed that Jim Breuer is in town tonight about ten minutes from where I live, and I'm not going to get to see him.  Doh!

Read more

Developing Young Pitchers the Safe Way

This is another excellent guest post from Matt Blake. Now that fall sports are beginning to wrap up and the winter training season is upon us, I thought it might be timely to contribute some more information for the youth baseball development community. Recently, I have been running some pitching clinics on the weekends for the 9-12 year old age group - and it got me thinking a lot about the importance of proper development for the youth baseball player.  This is especially true in what has been traditionally considered a "dead period" or off-season for baseball players in the Northeast.

llws

For better or worse, I believe this mentality is beginning to change a lot, as the greater population is forcing players to become more and more specialized at earlier ages. This may not be true across the board, but there are definitely some undertones driving this movement, such as showcases during the December/January months, where players are expected to show up to a workout and light-up a radar gun in order to impress college coaches or scouts. This thought alone might send shivers down Eric's spine and will probably hold its own as a blog topic in the near future. To give you an idea, one study published by Olsen et al (2006) at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, AL actually documented that injured baseball players (requiring elbow or shoulder surgery) went to four times as many showcases as those who were in the healthy control group!

tb_youthball_450

Now, I certainly can't say I think specialization at a young age is a healthy thing with regard to developing baseball players, as there are tremendous demands placed on the body in the act of throwing a baseball overhead.  But at the same time, if players and parents decide that is what they would like to do and it is in the best interest of the kid, there needs to be a safe way to approach development during this time period for this population. When I say this population, I'm speaking to the baseball population as a whole, but when I say a "safe approach," there obviously needs to be some clarification on the intended goals and ambitions of the particular player. Some of the major concerns that I believe need to be addressed before engaging a player in a throwing session include: -How much has this player thrown over the last day/week/month/year? Has he taken any breaks in his development to rest his arm for at least three weeks (at the very minimum)? - Has he complained of arm pain during practice or competition during this period? If so, where was the pain? How often did it occur and to what degree? These are just a few of the important signs and indicators that need to be tracked throughout the year, specialized winter training or not.  The study referenced above by Olsen et al identifies a host of other variables found in the injured population and should be a must read for anyone who is working with amateur baseball players. Now there are obviously a lot of different ways to look at this, so I'll try to explain what I think "proper development" means for players depending on their age range, and the level of performance they desire to reach. This winter alone, I will be aiding the development of pitchers ranging from the professional and collegiate baseball players taking part in Eric's Elite Baseball Development Program all the way down to the 9-12 year old population, where players are trying to figure out how to throw a baseball in the right direction. Obviously, the pro players are extremely specialized and probably have been for awhile. A lot of their development has already occurred and their windows for adaptation are a lot smaller, so we're working more towards preparing them to handle the stress of a 140+ games than we are skill refinement.

inman

On the other end of the spectrum, the 9-12 year olds one might be dealing with are incredibly raw and undeveloped with huge windows of adaptation ahead of them from pure maturation of their bodies to the development of their motor patterns. This time period is huge for kids to begin ironing out the proper motor patterns that they will use to refine their athletic skills in their teen years of development. With this in mind, a substantial amount of throwing might not be in their best interest and maybe getting more athletic in general would be more beneficial in the long term. How can you expect a player to repeat his mechanics with any sense of consistency if he doesn't understand how his body even works? One way that I like to spend time with this type of player is to extend the warm-up and movement training portion of these clinics to really drive home the importance of being in good physical shape.  We also use more group oriented video analysis sessions for the players and parents to point out what common mechanical faults look like in this age group, and what verbal cues the parent might be able to use to help correct when playing catch on their own. I actually find this portion of the clinic to be the most beneficial for all involved, because when you think about it, you only get about 3 to 4 hours with these players in a clinic setting. In order to get the information to settle in for these players, it needs to be constantly reinforced as their mind and bodies continue to develop. This is where mom or dad need to be informed, because they are the ones who will do much of the reinforcing, whether or not they are qualified to teach their son to throw a baseball. The more information they can have at their disposal and the more teaching tools you can give them, the better off they will be at aiding their child's development in the backyard. This is the main reason why Eric and I are holding a FREE clinic this coming Tuesday, Dec 8th at 7pm for parents and coaches in the area, who are interested in learning more about how to prepare and protect the amateur baseball player.  We'll be discussing the current injury epidemic in youth baseball, how it stems from overuse in competition, and what some of the major developmental needs are for the youth baseball player. If you're interested in attending, please RSVP to CresseyPerformance@gmail.com.  Hopefully we'll see some of you there! Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover

Click here to purchase the most comprehensive shoulder resource available today: Optimal Shoulder Performance - From Rehabilitation to High Performance. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 10 11 12
LEARN HOW TO DEADLIFT
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series