Dick Mills tackles Alan Jaeger and long toss in his latest blog post. Is long toss to blame for the rash of pitching injuries in major league baseball? Thoughts?
Let’s see he throws out some opinions, quotes some injury stats and with absolutely no basis ties them to long toss. Overall basically intellectually irresponsible. He also very obviously doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to admit the reasoning behind long toss. Long toss, properly done, i.e. not throwing on a line, is the basis for the interval throwing program done to rehabilitate arms. It has been proven to work and the Jaeger program simply applies it to pre-habilitation.
Now as far as the claim about elbow injuries I’ll be the first to admit that long toss programs combined with proper shoulder conditioning exercises are primarily aimed at the shoulder and not at the elbow. Long toss, properly done, is inherently safer than throwing full intensity off the mound simply because one builds up to it more gradually so it is safer for the elbow, but the long toss and the tubing work done as part of the Jaeger program are not really designed to condition the elbow the way they are designed to condition the shoulder.
I think a more interesting case could be made for aliens with death rays causing “all of those injuries”. It’s early in the season, we have injuries early every season. To make long toss the culprit of “20%” of pitchers being injured is absurd on the face of it. The chances are, IMO, much greater if you throw 90% of your off season throwing at game intensity (What about active rest? Shall we never recuperate?) as he suggests, that, would prove to put more pitchers at risk than a little long toss. And if long toss is the “only” technique you use in your conditioning, well my bet is you aren’t successful at reaching your goal which I believe is more velocity.
Now I’m no proponent of using long toss as anything more than just another conditioning activity…it isn’t that “one trick pony” thats gonna make you any greater as a pitcher, but incorperated as a portion of your training isn’t going to lame you up, unless you have some freak accident or something.
Agreed. Mills doesn’t provide enough information in that blog entry to substantiate the correlations and assertions he’s made.
I’m not sure why Mills pinpoints long toss as the etiology of injury for the “over 20%” of major leaguers in the month of April. On what basis does he make this claim? Is there a correlation between long toss and arm injury? Perhaps, but correlation isn’t causation and merely describes a relationship between or among variables. There are many other variables that may be contributors to injury such as but not limited to: cold weather climates; age of the pitchers;old injuries etc.
It has been documented that Dice K threw long toss at 300 feet & also threw a gazillion pitches while in Japan and his MRI before he went to the Red Sox was clean. Does that warrant a conclusion that long toss is beneficial for preventing arm injury. Of course not!
I think Mills is on more solid footing when he raises the question whether long toss is beneficial in producing a stronger arm and improving velocity. It’s a good question and needs to be discussed further. I think his opinions however, come across as having more to do with marketing his own stuff i.e., “still not believing what coaches believe…click here to get my 30 page report” than an honest evaluation of long toss and arm injury.
Scientific study is tricky business as it relies not necessarily on the evidence but on the interpretation of evidence. When one has a product or service to sell it raises the question of interpretive bias.
One more thing. The following from Mills’ blog makes no sense:
After all long toss has actually been proven to increase elbow injuries. I believe long toss has two limiting benefits. One is as part of an overall full body conditioning program in the off season since pitching is a full body activity.
One, he gives no citation regarding the “proof of elbow injuries.” Two, how does elbow injuries relate to “long toss having two limiting benefits[?]” Three, the sentence: “One is as part of an overall full body conditioning program in the off season since pitching is a full body activity.” is a grammatical nightmare and does not describe the “limiting benefit.” Fourth, he ends the paragraph without telling his readers what the second “limiting benefit” is.
Overall, I think it is a poorly written blog with little backbone.
(Not trying to rag on ya’, Papibon. I actually agree with you and think you made some very perceptive comments. Just thought this was funny. )
BTW, “limiting benefit” sounds like an oxymoron.
BTW, “limiting benefit” sounds like an oxymoron.[/quote]
Mills uses fear tactics to sell his products. As such, if there is any truth in his assertions, it is wrapped in a bodyguard of half-truths, exaggerations, and spurious claims unsupported by proof. And made-up words…
If there is a moron here, oxy or not, I encourage you to look toward the author in question.
I deserve it! I was too busy eating and didn’t proof read what I had written. BTW, this is an interesting website and forum. I have an 8 year old who pitches quite well (he started pitching at age 7) so I will have some questions in the future that I hope you guys can answer.
I have no idea why Mills would say that [quote]…long toss long toss has actually been proven to increase elbow injuries[/quote]
I’d be curious to see the proof on that also. I think I’ll ask him for it. Let’s not lose track of his main point in the blog, that being:
[quote]No one to date has shown me any evidence that long toss works to improve velocity or reduce arm injuries.[/quote]His contention has been that long toss, tubing or pitch count limits have been touted as the way to reduce arm injuries but they haven’t proven to be doing just that. Injuries have not actually gone down since all of this has been in vogue.
Without actual proof of a direct connection between long toss and injuries, I can’t say I’d believe it but, despite his one comment on elbow injuries, I think his point on the lack of reduction of injuries since this stuff became popular is interesting and worth consideration. Here’s an interesting article on this:
I believe pitchers, in general, throw harder these days than in the past. Pitch counts are only a guideline and you don’t apply the same limits to a rubber armed pitcher like Scott Shields (OK, his shoulder is probably a bit injured this season despite what he says) that you do to a pitcher with a history of arm problems.
I believe pitchers, in general, throw harder these days than in the past.[/quote]I think you may be right and I’ve long believed that this is a major factor in injury risk. It seems to be agreed upon (no science there, just what I’ve read) that the active mechanism for velocity generation is the rapid stretch (loading) of the muscles and connective tissues around the shoulder/arm and then the unloading and SSC contraction that happens. Yes, a lot happens leading up to that to make it more effective (momentum transfer) but it eventually comes down to that. The maximization of this, I suggest, is contrary to what these tissues want. We are increasing the very thing that injures them. You’ve said it before, I believe, that Maddux has been injury free partly because he doesn’t throw 95-100 mph. He’s not stressing those tissues to the same level that someone like Wagner is.
Back to the topic at hand, I think that Mills’ real point is getting lost in that unsupported statement about long toss “causing” elbow injuries. His real point is that all of the arm care programs, pitch count limits and long toss haven’t really reduced arm injuries.
By the way, of all of the things I’ve read by people supporting long toss, you’ve been the most reasonable in your explanation of the benefits. The fact that long toss allows one to gauge and control effort by the distance thrown is not often spoken of but it really makes sense.
I believe pitchers, in general, throw harder these days than in the past. [/quote]
I agree, too.
What really stands out to me, though, when you compare pitchers of today to those from the past is that pitchers today are generally much bigger and stronger than they were 25 years ago. Pitchers in the past were much thinner and lankier.
Now days, going to the weight room to workout is considered part of practice time. That’s a relatively new phenomenon. I think too much time is being spent in the weight room and not on the field throwing and working on pitching skills. As a result, we’ve got pitching staffs full of SUPER ATHLETES. Today’s pitchers are more ATHLETIC than they’ve ever been. But many of these pitchers, though strong, aren’t trained specifically to pitch. So they’re not as durable as guys in the past because pitching durability isn’t something to be found in the weight room, where modern baseball practices are held.
Another thing I believe, and I want to say there’s absolutely no scientific proof and it is just my opinion, is that heavy weightlifting can be detrimental to a pitcher’s arm health. JMO, but when you bulk up the arm you increase the decelleration loads on the arm because there is just more mass to slow down and it is much more difficult to strengthen the decellerator muscles sufficiently to handle the higher loads than it is to strengthen the muscles that accelerate the arm to overcome the increased mass.
Essentially, there’s a genetic limit to velocity for each pitcher and a pitcher can bulk up their arm and still hit that limit but they are putting more stress on the arm than if they didn’t bulk it up.
Once again, JMO with no scientific basis.
Another factor that has to be considered when one looks by position at the distribution of minor league players who have been suspended for use of performance enhancing drugs is that there has been significant steroid use among professional pitchers and that almost certainly contributes to a higher injury rate.
I was trying to think of guys 25+ years ago who threw hard. Here are some names I came up with but not sure how hard some of these guys threw…any comments are welcome.
Dwight Gooden (OK, not quite 25 years ago)
No doubt there have been some very hard throwers in the past in baseball. It is how hard the “average” pitcher is throwing that is the issue. I think the ML average is probably up 2 or 3 mph or more since the 60’s and 70’s. No way to prove it that I know of though.
So, the question isn’t about long toss causing injuries. I haven’t seen any real proof of that. The question still remains, though, of whether or not long toss (or tubing, pitch counts, etc.) has helped. It would seem not, as evidenced by the injury rates.
You can’t conclude that it hasn’t helped any more than you can conclude that it has given the available information.
All you can conclude is that we don’t know what the answer is and as usual people will take their chances based on what they believe. Personally, I believe long toss is useful so my son will continue with it.
[quote=“CADad”]You can’t conclude that it hasn’t helped any more than you can conclude that it has, given the available information.[/quote]Agreed.
[quote=“CADad”]All you can conclude is that we don’t know what the answer is…[/quote]Agree again.
[quote=“CADad”]…as usual people will take their chances based on what they believe.[/quote]Agreed yet again. The operative term here being “believe”.
I just find the point interesting, though. It “seems” that all of the efforts have not achieved the result of what we’ve been told they would. Injury rates have not dropped, despite the efforts.
Roger and I chatted today about the question of whether or not connective tissues, like ligaments and tendons, can be strengthened like muscle can. Maybe someone qualified out there can answer that one. Are they the “weak links” in the chain and the best we can do is condition the muscles?
The other concern I have is that to draw any conclusion requires us to have a baseline to compare against. But even that isn’t sufficient in and of itself. We then have to identify all of the other factors that relate to injury and to assess how they’ve changed since that baseline. Some of the factors that may have changed over time are training habits, eating/nutition habits, number of games played, amount of offseason time, use of steroids, amount of publicising of injuries (has number of injuries increased or just our awareness of them?), increase in average velocity, increase in the use of breaking pitches, etc.
The doctor who was treating my son is one of the world’s best and he firmly believes that you can strengthen ligaments. He’s often the co-chair with Dr. Andrews at many of these conferences that they teach other medical professionals at. He’s the guy people like DeLaHoya, Kurt Warner, etc. go to. I think he just operated on Repko recently.
Damage is always being done to every part of our bodies and I find it hard to believe that ligaments only repair themselves to some predefined limit and never go beyond it, while bones, tendons, muscles all get stronger. Ligaments are the most difficult to strengthen because significant tears tend to heal with scar tissue and that can result in a less than perfect repair. However, I doubt that all ligament damage heals with scar tissue. The reality is that no pitcher would last long if ligaments couldn’t get stronger. One can question if the ligaments are actually stronger but studies have shown that pitcher’s ligaments are bigger than those of non-pitchers.
Typically one wants to start with conditioning the muscles because it is much easier to do and the muscles can take the load off the ligaments. I think one of the ASMI studies implies that if the UCL had to take all of the load of a pitch it would snap within a few pitches. That’s why it is important not to continue pitching past the point of muscle fatigue. One of those presentations implied that pitcher’s ligaments were stronger than those of the cadavers they used for testing and could therefore handle higher loads. The presentation actually said that the ligaments from cadavers were not as strong as those of actual pitchers. This pretty clearly implies that pitcher’s ligaments get stronger if they don’t fail.
The thing to remember is that it is very difficult to know the difference between doing enough to strengthen a ligament and doing too much. There’s just no way to be certain, unless of course you fail the ligament. Then you know you did too much.