PITCHING

PITCHING

Pitching is a must in baseball in order for the game to start. In addition, the importance of the perfect pitch is so great that kids start to pitch at a very young age and subject their bodies to excessive forces. It is a necessary means to an end but what about the stress placed on the shoulder joint and elbow joint. The shoulder girdle is the scapula, clavicle, and humerus that support the forces of the muscles that pull again them. The muscle that brings about a movement is called the prime mover or agonist. The muscle that decelerates or stops the movement is called the antagonist (Baechle, Thomas, and Earle, Roger, National Strength and Conditioning Association Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning). The antagonist assists in joint stabilization and in decelerating the limb toward the end of a fast movement, thereby protecting ligamentous and cartilaginous joint structures from possible destructive forces. For example, the triceps acts as an agonist, extending the elbow to accelerate the ball and when the elbow almost reaches full extension, the biceps acts as an antagonist to slow down elbow extension to stop the movement (Baechle, Thomas, and Earle, Roger, National Strength and Conditioning Association Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning). This is a description of what happens in a throwing motion at the elbow joint.

There are major tendons and ligaments that are part of the elbow and the shoulder that are subject to injury. A major injury that has been documented is Tommy John. Tommy John is a procedure where the damaged ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with another tendon from the body, for example from the forearm or hamstring (Muench, Matthew, ESPN.com, Dr. James Andrews talks Tommy John). Dr. James Andrews is a very famous orthopedic surgeon and has corrected the pitching arms of some of the greatest professional baseball players. He has treated high-profile athletes during his career and has provided instruction to help with preventing this injury. He points out that common sense is a major part of saving athletes from having to go through this surgery by simply having breaks between seasons. He points out that baseball is year around and pitchers are throwing hard all year long without a rest period, and that baseball is a sport where the ligaments in the elbow need rest to develop. In addition, Dr. Andrews says velocity is something that needs to slow down in young pitchers because the faster the pitch, the greater potential for injury because it creates a lot of stress on elbows that are still developing. He believes that young pitchers should have a pitching limit, should not pitch consecutive days, and not pitch through an inning when they feel soreness in their pitching arm. In addition, one-day showcase events where pitching prospects throw for college and pro scouts may injury athletes because they throw as hard as possible to impress the scouts. And, finally Dr. Andrews sees the radar gun as a major problem because it measures the speed of the pitch and naturally athletes want to throw faster than the next person so there is an ever increasing push to throw faster which may lead to injury (Muench, Matthew, ESPN.com, Dr. James Andrews talks Tommy John).