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comments on shoulder injuries

Dear Coach, I have been a fastpitch instructor and coach for over 16 years. I currently have over 25 pitching students and have trained about 60 over the years . To my knowledge none have ever hurt or have had to have surgery on the shoulder. I have seen some muscle fatique in the back part of the shoulder after some overuse(girls being the main or only pitcher on a specific team) but no major problem. I have had girls come to me from other instructors with cronic shoulder pain. What I have witnessed in this shoulder delema is that it occurs when a girl tries to "push" the ball thru the delivery zone rather than "pull" the ball thru. I agree with all the other good ideas and truths you stated in your response, but proper pitching form is the best preventative tool against any major shoulder problem. If these college girls can throw 40-70 games a year and still have the arm and body left to pitch an entire playoff, regional and world series then something must be wrong with many who claim fastpitch is bad for the arm or shoulder. If done right it may be one of the least abusive motions in sports. I coach a local high school that only has 1 pitcher on the varsity team. They have relied on me to throw good live pitching every day for 3 1/2 months. After practice I go to my lessons and usually pitch to at least 2 hitting students a night, maybe more. I figure I throw 400 pitches a day 5-6 days a week during the season. The season just ended and the only part of my body that hurts and I feel is worn out a bit are my feet. But I am 51 years young. Hope this has been a little help. I enjoy your postings. Keep up the great work!!!! Coach Mark Downing Welcome to the Bull Pen!
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,882
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Dallas, Texas
Of course, you realize that recent scientific studies totally refute what you are saying?

"The forces and torques generated by the windmill pitching motion are significant, and when performed at the high pitch counts reported by these pitchers, they can cause overuse injury. Physical conditioning programs specific to softball help to reduce injury risk. Further attention should also be given to pitching biomechanics, pitch counts, and the number of pitching appearances made by an athlete." Barrentine SW, Fleisig GS, Whiteside JA, Escamilla RF, Andrews JR. Biomechanics of Windmill Softball Pitching With Implications About Injury Mechanisms at the Shoulder and Elbow. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 28(6):405-414, 1998.
"Pitchers are not like plow horses," says Dr. Alvin Loosli, a sports-medicine orthopedist based in San Francisco and lead author of one of the few studies on fast-pitch softball pitcher injuries. "They're far more like racehorses, and if you overuse them, they'll break down."

In 1989, Loosli and colleagues at the Saint Francis Memorial Hospital Center for Sports Medicine in San Francisco surveyed athletic trainers from eight NCAA Division I playoff teams. The 24 pitchers on those teams averaged 139 innings that season, with a maximum of 240 innings. Twenty of those 24 pitchers reported 26 injuries or complaints, 17 involving their arms. Twenty-one of the injuries had a gradual onset (rather than a one-time occurrence like a bruise) such as tendinitis, biceps strain, finger and thumb sprain, strain of the shoulder muscles, and ulna nerve damage in the elbow. Coaching Management, 9.7, October 2001
"In female athletes, biceps brachii activity during the windmill pitch is higher than during an overhand throw and is most active during the 9-o'clock and follow-through phases of the pitch. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Repetitive eccentric biceps contractions may help explain the high incidence of anterior shoulder pain clinically observed in elite windmill pitchers." The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 01/02/200902/2009;

Jori Boren, 15 YOA, softball pitcher, needed surgery for shoulder injury

But, for fun, let's ignore all the studies. What do a bunch of scientists and doctors know, anyway? All they do is study biomechanics for a living. They probably don't even pitch.


(1) Your argument is circular (and I've heard this same argument a 1000 times)--"If you pitch correctly, you won't get hurt. She is hurt, therefore, she pitched incorrectly." No reason, no rationale, nothing. You mention "pushing the ball"--I've also heard that injuries were the result of "pulling the ball", improper use of legs, and improper follow through.

(2) I've pitched batting practice to HS students also. I throw at about 60% of maximum effort. And, I don't throw curves, screws, rises or drops when I do. Do you let your pitchers during a game throw at 60% of their maximum effort? Do they all throw fastballs? Tell you what, go out there and throw at 100% of your maximum effort, and make 60% to 70% of those pitches a riseball or roll over drop (again, throwing at maximum effort) and do that for 4-5 days a week for 4 months and see how your shoulder feels.

(3) Fastballs in college are few and far between. Every pitch has to move, or the pitcher will get hammered. The real question is not "does throwing a fastball cause injury", the question is "does throwing breaking pitches cause injury"? So, are you saying that throwing a roll-over drop doesn't stress the elbow? Or that throwing a rise ball doesn't stress the shoulder? Or that throwing a curve or screw doesn't stress the wrist?
 
Aug 21, 2008
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Sluggers

I'd seen this study before. I think Cindy Bristowe did a column on it too. Here is my question: Who is the subject(s) being used? Perhaps this article/study should be used to point to the fact that there is RIGHT and WRONG in pitching mechanics and when pitching correctly, a pitcher shouldn't get injured. Looking at the mechanics of Osterman for example. I think she's got the best mechanics of any female pitcher I've seen. While I would tweak a few things in her, overall she is pretty damn sound in her motion. So my question is.. given her success and smooth motion, why would any pitcher do anything contrary to what the best is doing? Obviously, doing ANYTHING for too long will cause injury. But some last longer than others, why? Are we comparing 2 people using the same mechanics? Probably not. Someone doing it "wrong" is not going to last as long as someone who is.. our bodies are designed to work a certain way. Just like there is a correct way to throw a ball overhand, and several incorrect ways to do it.

Your points in your 3 paragraphs are interesting. Unless I'm missing something (which I probably am) I don't understand how the argument is circular that if you pitch right you won't get hurt. In point #2 you made: personally, I throw BP every week to a team and go at 50% with riseballs, drops, etc. On top of that I'm a month into my season now and throw 100%.. my shoulder is ok. Of course, the difference here is I don't really believe in or throw a "turn over drop". In point #3.. I could not agree more and it stresses me out when I see girls talk about their "fastball". OK, whatever. But to answer your rhetorical questions, IMHO, Neither a fastball or breaking pitch should cause injury. I don't know if a roll over drop stresses the elbow but the entire pitch makes very little sense to me, mechanically speaking. And, no a riseball should not stress the shoulder. If it does, they are doing it in a unusual way. And throwing curves and screws don't hurt the wrist, they hurt the neck when the pitcher watches them get smashed over the fence. How many HR's in the WCWS were hit on "screwballs"... A LOT!!!!!

Bill
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,882
63
Dallas, Texas
My DD's pitching coach told us, "As long as you throw correctly, you can pitch as much as you want and you won't get hurt." Like you, he was an accomplished men's pitcher. Many of his pitching students ended up in D1.

With that understanding, my DD pitched and pitched and pitched--for me, for her HS coach, for different travel teams, and in college. She went 8-0 one day (7 inning games, not 80 minute time limit games).

In college, she would do her individual practice, and then throw batting practice to the team. So, during the season, which ran January to May, she pitched 2 or 3 games a week, plus practicing, plus throwing batting practice 4 days a week. There was also a fall league. And, of course, during the theoretical "dead" period between October to January, she practiced.

She is now 28 YOA, and she can't sleep on her right side because of shoulder pain. Her bicep ligament has been stretched so much that she can reach over with left hand and move it around. (She doesn't regret the injury, and doesn't whine about it.)

So, somehow, someway, she got hurt. Her pitching coach says, "The college coaches messed her up." Somebody else will say, "She was throwing the drop ball wrong." Or somebody will say, "She pushed the ball or pulled the ball."

But, it doesn't change anything. The fact is that she went to the best pitching coach in the midwest, had a great college career, and ended up with a permanent injury to her shoulder.

Ray
 
Aug 21, 2008
848
28
Ray

That's an awful story. And I'm sorry to hear about that. But I do have a couple of points. #1. How many other students of this pitching coach are experiencing the same situation?

I'm sure the blame game is going around with everyone as to why this happened. I have a theory of my own and I've never even seen her pitch! LOL

BTW, did she throw a turn over drop?

Bill
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,882
63
Dallas, Texas
She and I aren't bitter about it--she got to do what 10,000 girls dream about. She would do it all over it again if she had the chance.

It is a little frustrating to have people, "You'll never get hurt pitching as long as your do it right." Sometimes, it is like they don't know what really goes on out there on the college teams.

First, head coaches work good pitchers into the ground. (Delaney at Northwestern is a prime example.) You can have the most perfect form in the world, but physics, physiology and anatomy are going to get to you if you don't rest the arm. Repetitive stress syndrome is real. From the end of my DD's senior year in HS to the end of her freshman year in college, my DD pitched around 70 games a year. She did the same thing her sophomore year. That is on top of the relentless practicing (which is year round, despite the NCAA rules).

Second, a player may have a great pitching coach in HS, but when they go off to college, she has to use the pitching coach for the college team. And that pitching coach probably won't be Lisa Fernandez. With luck, it will be some ex-softball pitcher one year out of college working on her masters.

This is her in her freshman year throwing a drop. I don't have any later videos of her. She didn't learn the pitch as a roll-over drop, but perhaps that is what it is. She was throwing in the 62-65 mph range as a junior, but not as a freshman.

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