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Are Breaking Pitches Age Dependent?

It has been long proposed that throwing breaking pitches such as curveballs and sliders are creating more injuries in youth baseball. Is there truth to this long adage?

When I think of the best pitchers in baseball with the nastiest pitches I look towards King Flex Hernandez’s 94 mph slider or Clayton Kershaw’s huge 12-6 breaking curveball. These two Cy Young award winning pitchers have mastered the breaking pitches to intimidate and get the best major league hitters out.

It is said that Kershaw was not looked at as a pitching prospect but in spring training on March 9, 2008 he sent Sean Casey back to the dugout shaking his head on what Vince Scully called “Ohhh, what a curveball! Holy mackerel! He just broke off Public Enemy No. 1.”Most Dodgers fans will remember this
day as the break out pitch that started
Kershaw’s magnificent career.

Kershaw was 19 years old when he truly mastered this pitch in spring
training. This is the main point of the
initiation of breaking pitches...age.
There have been several recent studies posted about the importance of learning certain breaking pitches based on age and maturity of the child. Due to the immaturity of the body and lack of strength throughout the shoulder and forearm most injuries can develop from baseball players throwing these pitches incorrectly or at too young of an age.

The best pitches for young baseball players to learn are the fastball and change up. Both of these pitches create the least amount of strain and torque on the shoulder and elbow. Curveballs on the other hand have not been shown to significantly cause injury but still place-increased strain on the shoulder when thrown incorrectly. The curveball should start to be initiated when the ball player is 15. The slider due to the angle of release creates less strain on the shoulder but increased torque on the elbow compared to the other pitches and should not be initiated until about 16 years old. Both the curveball and slider need proper instruction to execute these pitches once the ball player is strong enough. Other pitches such as the sinker, knuckleball, screwball all put significant strain on the shoulder and elbow and are not advisable until later years.

Breaking pitches are age dependent and must be held to this guideline or an increase risk of injuries for your young ball players will be present. Please refer to the following chart for guidelines about the appropriate age to start teaching young ball players what to pitch.

Fastball: 8 ± 2                   Slider: 16 ± 2

Change-up: 10 ± 3            Fork ball: 16 ± 2

Curve ball: 14 ± 2             Screw ball: 17 ± 2

Knuckle ball: 15 ± 3

https://sitedesq.imgstg.com/assets/siteDesq/20104/documents/Pitchers%20Char t.pdf

http://www.udel.edu/PT/PT%20Clinical%20Services/journalclub/sojc/02_03/Ma y03/lyman.pdf

http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/29/3/354.short


Twist Your Way To The Top

I think we can all remember that very difficult game twister. Every time that spinner landed on a new color; forcing your hand to somehow reach behind your back, underneath a leg and across the board while trying not to fall off was incredibly entertaining. The thought of the game being played now and the flexibility it requires seems impossible. This game however does teach valuable lessons to positional torques, balance, rotation and flexibility in ways that we never thought possible.

Looking at the specific qualities to win this game can be related to the critical components of the throwing motion in baseball. Often times when assessing a pitchers’ mechanics there is a miss in relating the lower half to the upper half of the body. It is crucial for a pitcher no matter the age to begin to learn the importance of max hip rotation in order to achieve full torque of the trunk and obtain maximal velocity through the pitch. I call this the “sling shot” effect. A sling shot is wound up with so much tension at the back half that when released forces a massive amount of kinetic energy to release the rock in the rubber band. The pitching motion is similar in that the lower half of the body starting with proper foot placement and maximal hip rotation will create a buildup of kinetic energy through the trunk, shoulder blades, shoulder and finally release through the fingers.

What is proper hip rotation and how can it be achieved without flying opens the hips and creating torque at the elbow? To paint a picture of this position, it iswhen the hips are fully rotated just before the lead foot strikes the ground and the shoulders are closed with arm extended out into the cocked phase of throwing. This position will allow for maximal hip to shoulder separation which in turns creates the most amounts of torque and velocity. There are two specific keys to obtaining this position and preventing further stress on the arm.

  1. 1)  The lead leg must be relaxed from the knee down and have a proper landing position with the toes pointing slightly towards the right handers box if a right handed pitcher. The hips will remain closed until just before lead foot strikes the ground. At this time they will lead their front hip towards the plate and really turn open the front hip at the latest possible time. The pitcher shoulder feel tightness along their oblique muscles and NOT there back if done properly.

  2. 2)  Posture is also very important in the throwing motion and critical to allow for the maximal separation between the hips and shoulders. When a pitcher transitions from early stance phase to the cocked position their posture can completely affect the ability to rotate through their hips and finish off a throw. For example, If a pitcher is bent to far forward when their foot lands, they will not have the ability to achieve full pelvic rotation, thus not allowing this maximal hip/shoulder separation. The key for this posture is to focus on balancing and creating extension or back bending through the middle part of the athletes back. It has been statistically proven and correlated that the optimal position of posture is the thoracic spine slightly extended, slight lean towards the back leg and non-throwing hip flexed up. Therefore it is important to not allow early rotation of the trunk or shift the center of gravity towards the throwing arm. Both will

cause the trunk and shoulders to “Open Early” before the hips and creating abnormal stresses on the shoulder and arm.

Maintaining proper foot landing position and rotation of the hips will create the maximal amount of separation leading to good pitching mechanics and increased velocity. Posture is also considerably important and must be taken into account when looking at the ability to create this hip to shoulder separation. I have attached a video from baseball rebellion for a good mechanical drill to practice this max hip rotation with proper foot positioning.

How to create thoracic extension...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1) http://www.ors.org/Transactions/60/1015.pdf

a. Article I pulled about the hip rotation

a. Drill for hip rotation from baseball rebellion


Attention Parents....Is It Really Worth It To You?

Young athletes today are very self-driven to become better, but let’s face it, some parents are also pushing their kids to perform too hard, too much and too fast. The parents could have been athletes themselves who failed and are now living vicariously through their kids to be the best they can be at that sport. Talking to some young athletes, they practice for 2 sometimes 4-6 hours a day for one sport. Whether it is swimming, running on track, soccer or playing baseball, these kids are performing hours at a time with one repetitive movement pattern designed for their particular sport.

Our bodies were not meant to perform one type of sport for especially the time frame that most of these athletes are putting in. Within a given year kids used to play a variety of sports allowing their bodies more diversity and not over use one set muscle groups to over dominate. The specialization of one particular sport or movement pattern has dramatically increased the usage of a particular sets of movements. Therefore these young athletes tend to overdevelop these muscle groups without the counter balance of their reciprocal pair. Overuse of these muscle groups will increase the demand that the body just simply can’t not support at these young ages.

A great example of this is a young soccer player...she plays soccer 11-12 months a year through a variety of high school, club games, practices and tournaments. She continues to push her body over and over through this one sport. Her quadriceps become too dominate; hamstrings, glutes and outside stabilizers are basically non-existent because of lack of other muscle group strength training. This will lead to the potential set up for an ACL tear which is up 400% over the last 10 years!!!Thus kids are having more “overuse” injuries and a decrease in overall playing times. This will lead to more physical therapy and even scarier increased risk of surgeries and chronic joint pain later on in life.

Don’t get me wrong I believe that it is great that these young athletes are so determined to become the next Mike Trout, Michael Phelps, Misty May-Trenor and so on but the emphasis on over training is a real issue that needs to be addressed. It all starts with you parents! Can you be the difference maker in these athletes’ lives?

Here are a few statistics to prove the point of over training and how important multiple sport playing and physical therapy prevention exercises can make a difference.

  • ACL tears in soccer players are up 400% last 10 years
  • Playing competitive baseball for greater than 8 consecutive months will lead to 5x risk of surgery on shoulder/elbow
  • Playing/pushing through fatigue can increase risk of injury 36x.
  • Male Swimmers: 4.00 injuries / 1000 hours of swimming
  • Female Swimmers: 3.78 injuries / 1000 hours of swimming
  • 91% of swimmers between 13-25 y/o have an episode of shoulder pain.
  • 50-80% of volleyball injuries are from overuse.
  • A 50% reduction in ankle sprains in volleyball with P.T. related prevention exercises.

Please take caution in playing your young athlete for more than 8 months consecutively in a given year. A lot of these injuries can be prevented through multiple sport play, active rest and coming to see the trained physical therapy staff here at Rausch . With proper injury prevention and knowledge we can help reduce this overuse trends and help our athletes play with more fun and much longer.

http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=31670

http://www.swimmingcoach.org/journal/manuscript-becker.pdf

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/health/ACL-Injuries-Up-400-Percent-in-Young-Athletes- 147376115.html

http://m.mlb.com/pitchsmart/