As strength coaches, our goal is to not only improve an athlete’s performance but also keeping our athletes healthy during the season. This is not unlike a race car that comes out of the gate blazing and after 100 laps requires a “pit stop” to try to address wear and tear.
Josh came back to us late in the season saying that he felt like he was starting to throw high and arm side which was affecting his control (the ability to throw strikes) and causing him to get a bit wild. Having worked with Josh the entire off-season and watching him leave here in March at the top of his game and throwing darts, told me that his body was getting tired from a full season on the mound. I could tell this was negatively affecting his strength/mobility and ultimately control/command.
Losses of strength and stability alter and create less than optimal movement patterns. This in turn will create inconsistent throwing patterns and problems executing pitches due to scapular stability issues as well as the lower half’s ability to create a stable platform to throw from on consistent basis. Here’s an example we encountered with one of our pitchers.
Generally, when players start to struggle with throwing strikes, they’ve been conditioned to modify their mechanics. Many times, this is completely unnecessary. Through assessing and re-assessing, anatomy often tells us that to fix a “control” issue, strength and stability may need to be addressed before looking deeper into the situation. So that’s what we did and here’s what we found.
After re-assessing Josh, we found that a downwardly rotated scap was causing a lack of upward rotation.
This can cause impingement while negatively affecting upward rotation, which in Josh’s case forces him to bring his already low arm slot (he throws sidearm) even lower, causing him to get overly rotational, which in turn will have “cut” the ball to try and get it back over the plate.
Soft tissue work to the levator scap and working on some proprioceptive work for the mid/lower traps and serratus was long overdue (please note that working on trigger points in the neck area should be performed by a qualified individual).
(Trigger Points-Lev Scap)
(Ass. Prone Trap Raise)
In addition, his t-spine rotation to the left was limited.
With Josh being a right-handed pitcher, a lack of t-spine rotation to the left side would cause him to reach end range early, forcing a pre-mature and “high and arm side” ball release. This would also cause the throwing arm to “slam shut” across the body causing extra wear and tear on the posterior cuff.
Working on his breathing to help re-orientate his ribcage closer to neutral helped us get back 10 degrees of rotation to the left, as well as open up the acromial space to help get his arm slot back to where it was.
(Left AIC Manual)
Add to it, a beat up front leg/hip, and you can complete the trifecta.
After throwing off the mound all season Josh was getting a bit “gritty” in his lower half which in turn was negatively affecting his front leg’s strength/ability to effectively decelerate his body at foot strike. This can create a less than optimal position from a stability standpoint to throw from. Getting back some IR as well as adding some lost strength to the front leg worked wonders.
(S. Leg Deadlift)
Fast forward a few weeks and a few tune ups in the bullpen with Coach Aviles later and Josh is back on track and looking forward to a great summer and freshman college season.
Note: Before you prescribe mobility exercises to athletes, remember to assess each individual athlete. Each has unique needs that depend on their specific anatomical / movement deficiencies.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)