Are Leg Strength and Power Important to Baseball Pitching?
It is amazing that the perception is out there that you need a stronger arm to throw the ball harder. It couldn’t be more false unfortunately. The research states quite the opposite actually. Please don’t misunderstand, there needs to be focal training programs for the shoulder and scapular muscles that will not only aid in velocity, but more importantly decrease the risk of injury.
The theory of proximal to distal kinematic sequencing is important to understanding the power behind the throw. The throw is actually initiated by the lower body and progresses through the core before accelerating the arm and finally the hand. When the sequence is out of order, it is thought that energy is lost, performance decreases, and other body segments step up to compensate, which in turn leads to injury. For example, if the stride leg cannot absorb the stress during landing a ripple of force can move up to the trunk creating “whip-like” action forcing the shoulder to catch up thus loading the structures of the shoulder and elbow. Over time this will lead to some form of injury.
What Can We Conclude?
It is a small body of research that explores this area, however, the findings are very conclusive.
1. Proximal to distal kinematic sequencing occurs during the throwing mechanic.
2. Leg drive is important for throwing velocity and improving strength, power, and endurance should transfer to more efficient throwing.
3. While all leg muscles are involved on the pitching motion (Campbell 2010) focus on the gluteal muscles during training will be of great benefit due to the relation of the gluten and pelvic rotation (Oliver 2010).
4. The adductors (groin) is thought to be more involved (Yamanouchi 1998) then previously suggested and not activated during most standard exercises. More specific exercises need to be devoted in order to strengthen and condition this group.
The theory of kinetic chain sequencing is important but most likely one of many factors associated with injury and power loss. A combination of training sequencing and leg strength will reduce the risk of injury and increase power undoubtedly which is why proper coaching and strength programs are important. Make sure if you choose to participate in a strength and conditioning program, the coach has an understanding of the concept and research out there and that you are just doing a “work out” that may ultimately harm you.
It is important to have a plan when an injured athlete is returning to participation. Hitting and throwing progressions are a great way to slowly build the arm strength and mechanics necessary to return to practice and competition safely. Too many athletes jump right back into a full practice after they have recovered from an injury which in turn tends to prompt poor mechanics due to fatigue thus increasing their risk of future injury. Throwing a baseball, softball, or football is really no different then running a marathon. There is a level of conditioning that needs to occur prior to participating in a competetive environment. There are many plans available either from your treating physician or those included in the book. We have created very specific plans for all ages, positions, and needs. Have fun and play ball, play safe.
All of the muscles that flex the wrist and fingers as well as rotate the hand to a palm down position attach on the inside (medial) portion of the elbow. When these muscles contract, they can fracture the bone where they attach. This is very common in little league baseball, thus the term “Little Leaguer’s Elbow”. The area that is fractured is not responsible for growth but is key for stability, strength, and normal function of the elbow.
For a split second all of the force during the throwing motion is isolated to this area no bigger then a quarter. Excessive force or excessive repetition of non excessive force can lead to the detachment of the growth center.
Most of these injuries do not require surgery, however, many do. The surgery is usually in the form of pins or screws, but the recovery is normal or very near normal.
The most dangerous risk in this injury is the risk of missing it. If displaced and unrecognized, injury to this area of the elbow can be devastating in the long term.