Addressing and Treating Trunk Tilt at Foot Strike – Part 1

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

Many times, when analyzing video of our young pitchers, I’ll come across what I call trunk tilt at foot strike. It’s quite common in younger throwers and is characterized by an excessive lean (tilt) contralaterally towards your left side at ball release (if you’re a right-handed pitcher and vice versa). The head becomes tilted, facing away from the driveline and gives the appearance that the athlete is getting ready to launch the ball over a three-story building.

This tilt helps to keep the arm at a roughly 90-110-degree angle from the body. It’s this angle that is thought of as being the safest and most powerful. Here are two examples of different positions at ball release, both with similar angles.

(Upright)                                                              (Tilt)

The problem could be lower-half driven (click here for article on lack of back leg extension) or physical constraints (mobility / strength), which we’ll be discussing today.

First, let me start by saying that pitching with an excessive contralateral trunk tilt has been associated with a benefit in performance /velocity. This may be true, but it also has been associated with increased joint loading (Effect of excessive contralateral trunk tilt on pitching biomechanics and performance in high school baseball pitchers, Oyama S1, Yu B, Blackburn JT, Padua DA, Li L, Myers JB., Am J Sports Med. 2013 Oct).

It’s true that many pro players can and do throw harder by creating more angular velocity and acceleration in the upper body from hand break to ball release through an excessive trunk tilt. If you’re currently making a great living playing pro ball then by all means carry on, but if you’re a young athlete trying to make it to the next level, the risk may not be worth the reward.

Many times, correcting issues early on that can help address the tilt and learning to “re-tension” the throw may be just what keeps a young athlete in the game (injury free) long enough to get a shot at the big leagues, or even a great education for that matter.

What is Considered an “Excessive” Tilt?

Based on testing methods in the study, I use the side view of our 4-camera system to find the point when the pitcher reaches maximum shoulder external rotation at foot strike.

Being that our camera system is synchronized, I can now look at him from the front view at the exact same moment. Next, I’ll draw a vertical line straight up from the middle of the landing foot.  If the middle of the head is more than a “head-width” outside of this vertical line, it would demonstrate what I call an “excessive contralateral tilt”.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll talk about why it can be detrimental to a young pitcher’s arm and some things we can do to help get these guys get a little more upright and heading towards the driveline.

See ya’ in the gym…

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