Unfortunately, 90% of the pitcher population cannot handle the amount of lumbar extension Tim Lincecum put his body through. It’s no mystery that low back pain can severely compromise velocity, as well as command, in pitchers. In Part 3 of this series on Pain Site vs. Pain Source, we’ll look at low back pain and some possible “sites” distally that could be causing it. We’ll also look at some things we can do from both the strength and mobility (mechanics) side that may help to relieve unwanted stress in the area. Lower back pain after pitching can be caused by many things, but for the scope of this article, we’re going to concentrate on…
- Insufficient anterior core strength
- Insufficient core strength / stability
- Lower half mechanical disconnects in the delivery
Insufficient Anterior Core Strength
The anterior core (rectus abdominus) is a big player in all things pitching as well as being a key to optimal performance as well as keeping ourselves out of debilitating back pain. It not only helps resist extension and rotation but helps create a positive impact on breathing as well as helping to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body. Unfortunately it seems to be severely underrated.
Insufficient Core Strength / Stability
When we sit all day, we are basically shutting off our core musculature and developing a lazy kyphotic posture. When our core shuts down, this causes us to have to rely on hyper extension in the lower lumbar to get things done such as get efficiently overhead or the ability to extend over the front leg to achieve a later ball release.
This not only puts added stress on the discs but creates the kyphotic (rounded) t-spine posture we mentioned earlier. This also limits our t-spine and hip range of motion as well as compromising pelvic alignment. This is happening to our youth at an alarming rate due to TV and cell phone use.
Contrary to popular belief, movement doesn’t originate from the legs- it originates from the core. Thus, creating a stronger, more stable one through strength training will help keep us from laying too heavy into our lower lumbar and give us the ability to maintain a more “stacked” torso when coming down the mound.
A weak core can, not only, cause eventual damage to the discs, but it can also help create a heavy trunk tilt at foot strike causing an inconsistent and erratic delivery. Note the hyper-extension in the lower lumbar below:
Overtime through repetition, the stressed area in the lower lumbar will eventually cry “uncle” much like a credit card being bent in the same spot over and over, creating lower back pain from pitching as well as seriously compromising performance on and off the mound.
Lower Half Disconnects in the Delivery
Closed at Foot Strike – Landing closed at foot strike locks out lower half hip rotation causing hyper extension in the lower lumbar. This places increased stress on the lower back while forcing the athlete to throw across the body, taking us away from the driveline and affecting performance, velocity and accuracy as well.
(Closed – Caution)
(Neutral – Good)
What to Do – Both insufficient ER in the lead leg and IR in the stance leg can force a premature landing at foot strike. Work on increasing hip ER with sumo squats and IR with bowler squats.
(IR – Bowler squats)
(ER – Sumo Squats)
Maximum ER – Extension in the lower lumbar also places increased load on the discs while placing the arm too far behind the body at maximum external rotation. This in turn will cause increased compression loads at the shoulder, valgus torque at the elbow and contribute to a “slow arm”. If this load is excessive, the player is at risk for the development of spondylolysis (back pain).
What to Do – Weakness of the abdominal oblique muscles can lead to hyper extension of the lumbar spine so strengthening the anterior core and the oblique’s is a must.
(Core Stability at Release Point)
Here at RPP, we break down pitching delivery into its many components. From there, we can prescribe correctives that can address many of these issues.
For potential sources of shoulder pain click here.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)