Physical therapist Chad Kofoed explains why throwing with only their arm could actually be hurting your child’s baseball career.
“Wow, your kid has a great arm!”
This might sound like a compliment, but as a physical therapist and part of TRIA’s Return to Throwing team, I can tell you this is not the message we want to share with our young pitchers.
Research shows that throwing with their entire body reduces the stress placed on an athlete’s arm. Breaking the throwing motion down into steps shows how multiple body parts need to work together to throw the ideal pitch.
Starting with their wind up, a pitcher must briefly balance on their drive leg (right leg for a right handed thrower) as they prepare to generate as much energy as possible toward home plate. Take a second and let that sink in. The throwing motion starts with the legs. Many of the young athletes I see at TRIA are so concerned with arm speed that they forget how much their drive leg, hip and butt muscles (gluteal) should be contributing to the motion.
The longer a pitcher’s stride, the better! This helps ensure they are using the right amount of push off or “drive.” It also means their pitch will be delivered that much closer to home plate, which can be a big advantage. Major League Baseball pitcher Aroldis Chapman is a great example of someone with a long stride.
Once the lead leg hits the ground, pitchers transfer all the energy created from driving hard off the rubber to their throwing arm. This requires a lot of core strength. If a pitcher’s abs and butt muscles aren’t sore after a throwing session, they could be putting their shoulder and elbow at greater risk of injury. Not to mention they are probably missing out on a lot of potential velocity!
This is really the final aspect of the throwing motion, and is where we ask a lot out of a pitcher’s shoulder and arm. Range of motion is critical in this phase, and pitchers need a great deal of external shoulder rotation to cock back and throw the ball. They also need to balance that with the right amount of internal rotation required to follow through.
This is where we put the strength of the thrower’s shoulder and should blade muscles to the test. Research shows it’s more important to develop the strength, stability and endurance of the muscles that help slow down a pitcher’s arm down versus the ones that help speed it up.
The final phase of the pitching motion is the follow through. Here, it comes full circle back to our “total body” focus. A pitcher’s lead leg needs strong hip muscles and flexible hamstrings to help slow down all the energy created in earlier phases of the throwing motion. Poor hamstring flexibility (e.g. can’t touch your toes) can cause pitchers to compensate through their back or put added stress on their arm.
What amount of soreness is normal?
A little bit of soreness after a practice or game is completely normal. In fact, if it is spread throughout an athlete’s body (arm, leg, core, etc.) that’s probably a good sign that they’re not putting too much stress on their arm. If soreness from throwing doesn’t go away after a few days of rest and ice, or pain becomes a recurring issue, TRIA is here to help.
Our orthopedic urgent cares in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Woodbury are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. We provide walk-in care for athletes of all ages and abilities. No appointment needed! Our physicians, physical therapists and athletic trainers are here to help your child get back to the activities they love.