Low pitching elbow?


#1

Question for you guys re: shoulder alignment and elbows. Specifically looking into the injury risk potential if the elbow is below the shoulders as the throwing arm comes forward. Infielders throw like this all the time…

What’s your take on this? Let’s get a healthy discussion…


#2

Well, a pitcher can’t pitch for long with a quirk like this, but he could PITCH like this. It would be unhealthy and after so long you would see him on the bench with Tommy John or any number of surgeries. But how many pitches do we throw in a game? 80-120? How many times does a fielder do this at full speed during a game? 10 times max? You can put excess pressure on certain parts of your body of inanimate objects for a short period of time and successfully escape unscathed. However, you cannot do it forever if it is unhealthy. Technically, the body wasn’t meant to pitch. God didn’t build us to throw fastballs (Nolan Ryan is an exception, haha). So technically we create stress on our bodies every time we throw, and this is just a poor way of distributing the stress, especially over a long period of time.


#3

I think it’s important to look at the shoulder alignment of the player as they make a throw. When submariners deliver they tilt their spine, so their actual arm angle is not adjusted.


#4

Yeah, I pretty much agree with the previous posters on this, at least by the time of maximum external rotation (MER)–where the forearm has laid back as far as its going to go during the delivery.

At that point, it looks like everybody’s intrinsic or anatomical arm-angle is essentially 90 degrees, i.e., sidearm. The functional arm-angle at MER, the pitcher’s arm-angle that a hitter perceives relative to an imaginary vertical axis, is achieved by tilting of the torso—tilting toward the throwing side to go submarine, tilting away from the throwing side to go 3/4 or over-the-top, and basically no tilt at all makes the condition intrinsic = functional and makes the pitcher a sidearmer.

A few years ago ASMI published a computational model of throwing suggesting unhealthy increases in valgus force at the throwing elbow for intrinsic arm-angles that differed significantly from 90 degrees. I’ll see if I can dig that paper out if anyone is interested.


#5

I titled the reply to the discussion Steven placed up here little league vs big league because that is really what this discussion is all about…

Now, I know I could be very wrong on this one and if I am, I am sure someone will post video to prove me so…lol…but as far as I know and have seen on video, there are no big league pitchers, not fielders, but pitchers who throw with their elbow below their shoulder as the arm snaps forward from external rotation into release position. There are definitely pitchers who are sidearm or submarine pitchers, but just as Hammer replied, that is not the elbow being below the shoulder, that is alignment of the spine and where the tilt of the spine is.

This is an issue for younger throwers/pitchers whose movement pattern is just either not developed yet or they just truly do not throw the ball well. I have seen some very creative arm actions as an instructor of kids doing all sorts of movements with their arm to throw the ball…lol.

It really just comes down to understanding what a solid arm action looks like and being able to help the younger guys to develop a better movement. But for the big league pitcher this is something they have long taken care of and there would be no way they would be in the bigs if they threw the way described in this discussion.

On a side note…a gentleman replied to this discussion that pitching or throwing is not natural…I would have to respectfully disagree with that statement. I understand anatomically that this argument could be made, but from the beginning of time humans have been making the overhand throwing or striking motion to survive. So for me, I feel that throwing is right along with everything else from sparing fish, meat, the javelin throw, volleyball, tennis, etc…it is natural, just like it is also natural for people to get hurt, that is a natural response that the nervous system has to take care of us so hopefully we won’t go too far and really cause ourselves damage.

Ok, i’ll shut up now…LOL

Thanks


#6

I didn’t say we weren’t meant as people to throw, but we weren’t meant to pitch. I think there is a slight difference.

See, we are throwing a 5 ounce ball at speeds in the excess of 90-95 miles an hour. I do not believe we were meant to do this on a consistent basis, and that is why pitchers have more arm injuries than everyone else. I do not disagree that most athletic motions are natural, I just do not think that pitching is a completely natural motion.


#7

Nice post, Doug.

One point that could be aired out a little more…throwing is a natural motion for human beings but throwing very large numbers of repetitions at very high speeds on a sloped surface may not be all that natural.

Baseball pitching at the different levels of competition seems to take a human motion that is natural and then we set game conditions in order to push the performers at any current level to the point where the few are separated from the many. And of course there’s not just one branch-point per level: At MLB level the few are again separated from the many over and over and over until ‘the few’ includes only the Nolan Ryans, the Greg Madduxes, the Randy Johnsons, the Sandy Koufaxes, the Walter Johnsons…


#8

[quote=“laflippin”]At that point, it looks like everybody’s intrinsic or anatomical arm-angle is essentially 90 degrees, i.e., sidearm. The functional arm-angle at MER, the pitcher’s arm-angle that a hitter perceives relative to an imaginary vertical axis, is achieved by tilting of the torso—tilting toward the throwing side to go submarine, tilting away from the throwing side to go 3/4 or over-the-top, and basically no tilt at all makes the condition intrinsic = functional and makes the pitcher a sidearmer.[/quote]Yeah, what he said!!

[quote=“laflippin”]A few years ago ASMI published a computational model of throwing suggesting unhealthy increases in valgus force at the throwing elbow for intrinsic arm-angles that differed significantly from 90 degrees.[/quote]I recall that, la. I believe I even posted in a thread on it.


#9

Here it is, DM…they used exptl data for 33 subjects to construct kinematic models that they could then use to simulate the effect of changes in arm-angle (shoulder abduction) and trunk tilt on elbow varus force (not valgus force…).

J Appl Biomech. 2006 May;22(2):93-102.

Influence of shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt on peak elbow varus torque for college baseball pitchers during simulated pitching.

Matsuo T, Fleisig GS, Zheng N, Andrews JR

Osaka University, ASMI, Univ of Florida

Elbow varus torque is a primary factor in the risk of elbow injury during pitching. To examine the effects of shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt angles on elbow varus torque, we conducted simulation and regression analyses on 33 college baseball pitchers. Motion data were used for computer simulations in which two angles-shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt-were systematically altered. Forty-two simulated motions were generated for each pitcher, and the peak elbow varus torque for each simulated motion was calculated. A two-way analysis of variance was performed to analyze the effects of shoulder abduction and trunk tilt on elbow varus torque. Regression analyses of a simple regression model, second-order regression model, and multiple regression model were also performed. Although regression analyses did not show any significant relationship, computer simulation indicated that the peak elbow varus torque was affected by both angles, and the interaction of those angles was also significant. As trunk tilt to the contralateral side increased, the shoulder abduction angle producing the minimum peak elbow varus torque decreased. It is suggested that shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt may be only two of several determinants of peak elbow varus torque.

PMID: 16871000


#10

I don’t know Doug. I think I have to take issue with you a little. I think there’s more than one discussion point here. One is what’s the “natural” throwing motion, and another is what’s the “best” pitching motion. Then that one gets into what’s the “best” pitching motion to throw just any ball, as opposed to throwing a baseball. And even those get into what’s the “best” motion to have success at baseball as opposed to throwing a baseball with the least risk of injury. And all those could prolly get broken down into even more sub-categories. :?

As far as what was natural, from the time man stood upright and figured out a thrown projectile could be a significant weapon, the arm action that brought down a beastie most efficiently was a “natural” one, and that may well have been an “overhand” throw. But throwing a rock or spear is a far far cry from pitching a baseball.

If I had to say what the most natural pitching motion was, I’d have to opt for the one which could be repeated the most often losing the least “efficiency”, plus be able to be used with the least amount of rest. To me, there’s absolutely no doubt that pitching motion is what’s used in FP softball. Even young girls and boys can pitch extremely well for long periods of time, then turn right around the same day and do it all over again, and again day after day. Plus, all the time they use a ball much larger and heavier than a baseball, yet still have an arm injury incidence that sure seems to be many times lower than baseball pitchers.


#11

I guess I shouldn’t have made the side note comment because now the topic has gone from low elbow throwing to is throwing natural…LOL

I am new to this forum stuff so I am going to have to learn how to quote people from reply to reply like you all know how to do…maybe someone can help me with that… :smiley:

But CSOleson is right when he says we were not meant to throw from a mound, that many times, with the slope, the velocity and anything else you want to add to the statement…I totally get and agree with that…I just wanted to make a note that humans have been doing overhand movements since day one, so I call that natural…even though I am sure professional pitcher was not in the thought process of the cave man back in the day…


#12

Good freezing morning, Doug White.
As I read this smorgasbord of posts and differeing opinions I was once again reminded of the old poem about the blind men and the elephant—you know the one, six blind men came across an elephant; one took hold of the leg and announced that the elephant was like a tree, another grasped the trunk and said no, the creature was like a rope, and so on. The upshot of it all was that “though each was partly in the right, they all were in the wrong”. Not one of them truly got the essence of the elephant.
Now let me put my fifty cents’ worth into the mix (inflation, you know, and next thing we know it’ll go up to a dollar).
Many moons ago I was a pitcher—a natural sidearmer who used the crossfire extensively, I was so in love with that delivery. I wasn’t fast, but I could throw hard, and I had a natural curveball that had come attached to the sidearm delivery. I picked up a couple of other pitches—a palm ball which I used as a changeup, and a knuckle-curve which became my #2 pitch. I was doing all right with those pitches, and I could changeup on the knuckle-curve in particular—then, at age 16, because of my desire to know something about the slider which I had heard a lot about and had seen thrown in games, I got lucky and found a pitching coach who was one of the finest anyone could ever hope to work with. He was an active major-league pitcher, and when he saw where I was coming from and that I was willing to work at it, he took me in hand, worked with me and helped me all he could, which was immeasurable. From him I learned the ins and outs of strategic pitching, about expanding my repertoire, fielding my position, and when I stumbled on something and we both saw that it was working he helped me refine it. We worked together for almost four years, and I will always remember him. His name was Ed Lopat, and his specialty was beating the Cleveland Indians to an unrecognizable pulp.
Lopat firmly believed that every pitcher has a natural motion. Mine, as I said before, was sidearm, and he showed me how to take full advantage of it. By the way, with the sidearm delivery the elbow is on a level with the shoulder, neither higher nor lower. He was one of the greatest finesse pitchers in the game, and he shared its secrets with me, knowing that I would make good use of them. :slight_smile: 8) :baseballpitcher:


#13

[quote=“douglasbryantwhite”]I guess I shouldn’t have made the side note comment because now the topic has gone from low elbow throwing to is throwing natural…LOL

I am new to this forum stuff so I am going to have to learn how to quote people from reply to reply like you all know how to do…maybe someone can help me with that… :smiley:

But CSOleson is right when he says we were not meant to throw from a mound, that many times, with the slope, the velocity and anything else you want to add to the statement…I totally get and agree with that…I just wanted to make a note that humans have been doing overhand movements since day one, so I call that natural…even though I am sure professional pitcher was not in the thought process of the cave man back in the day…[/quote]
Naw Doug, you are fine. To quote someone, simply click the quote button, or you can use the actual way to quote. Type: [quote=“Anybody”]What they said[/ quote]
Simply remove the space in the end quote.

You are right, we have been doing overhand motions since the beginning of time, and that we have done many athletic motions since each of us could even walk. Pitching just causes too many stressors, and that is why most guys hurt their arms off of a mound, whereas most fielders stay healthy if they do not pitch, but can hurt themselves from overthrowing as well.

Yet I firmly believe that the elbow being level with the shoulder is key to arm health. If you see many major leaguers throw, you won’t find many (to my knowledge) that have a high or low elbow. If you do, they don’t last long. You see it a lot more in youth baseball, and on the high school level because most people do not have the strength to throw a baseball right. It requires a great amount of force over time, in other words, a high amount of work.


#14

That’s how things evolve in a forum like this one. But as along as in the end all that happens is knowledge swaps, its all good. :wink: And to be honest, when I thought about the elbow in relation to the shoulder, the very 1st thing that popped into my mind was a SB pitcher.

S’ez. Just hit the quote button, then copy the quote into a word processor document. Copy the (/quote) at the end, and put it after the last thing you want to quote. Then write your response, and put a [quote] in front of the next thing you want to quote, and a (/quote) after it, and continue on until your done. Just remember to use brackets “[]” around “quote” and “/quote” and not parens.

I’ve been down this same road many times with many people over the years, and if you talk about it long enough, virtually the same end is always reached. Throwing and pitching are two completely different things, other than they both involve someone using is arm to transport a baseball through the air over some distance.

Do you find people often think “overhand throwing” means the upper arm is actually perpendicular to the ground at some point in the delivery, as opposed to just the lower arm being perpendicular to the ground? The reason I ask is, my friend was a pro pitcher, scout, and MLPC for over 40 years, and he’s told me many times that there aren’t a whole lot of pitchers who have been either straight ‘over-the-top”, nor many who had the angle of their upper arm either much higher or lower than parallel with their shoulders.


#15

[quote=“laflippin”]Here it is, DM…they used exptl data for 33 subjects to construct kinematic models that they could then use to simulate the effect of changes in arm-angle (shoulder abduction) and trunk tilt on elbow varus force (not valgus force…).

J Appl Biomech. 2006 May;22(2):93-102.

Influence of shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt on peak elbow varus torque for college baseball pitchers during simulated pitching.

Matsuo T, Fleisig GS, Zheng N, Andrews JR

Osaka University, ASMI, Univ of Florida

Elbow varus torque is a primary factor in the risk of elbow injury during pitching. To examine the effects of shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt angles on elbow varus torque, we conducted simulation and regression analyses on 33 college baseball pitchers. Motion data were used for computer simulations in which two angles-shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt-were systematically altered. Forty-two simulated motions were generated for each pitcher, and the peak elbow varus torque for each simulated motion was calculated. A two-way analysis of variance was performed to analyze the effects of shoulder abduction and trunk tilt on elbow varus torque. Regression analyses of a simple regression model, second-order regression model, and multiple regression model were also performed. Although regression analyses did not show any significant relationship, computer simulation indicated that the peak elbow varus torque was affected by both angles, and the interaction of those angles was also significant. As trunk tilt to the contralateral side increased, the shoulder abduction angle producing the minimum peak elbow varus torque decreased. It is suggested that shoulder abduction and lateral trunk tilt may be only two of several determinants of peak elbow varus torque.

PMID: 16871000[/quote]

Matsuo in 1999 first identified excessive abduction as an issue (although apparently he got it from Chris O’Leary…LOL). Then in 2002 and in 2006 (your article) he showed the interdependency of abduction and trunk tilt in contributing to elbow stress. Matsuo was pretty specific in 1999 on abduction saying varus torque was minimized between 90 and 100 degrees and on trunk tilt in excess of 10 degrees. Werner’s in 2002 backed up Matsuo’s work saying “Increasing the amount of arm abduction was shown to be contributory to increasing the amount of valgus stress at the elbow.”

Bottom line, teaching kids to “get their elbow up”, based on the available research that has been done, is not a good idea.


#16

Do you find people often think “overhand throwing” means the upper arm is actually perpendicular to the ground at some point in the delivery, as opposed to just the lower arm being perpendicular to the ground? The reason I ask is, my friend was a pro pitcher, scout, and MLPC for over 40 years, and he’s told me many times that there aren’t a whole lot of pitchers who have been either straight ‘over-the-top”, nor many who had the angle of their upper arm either much higher or lower than parallel with their shoulders.

Ok scorekeeper…

I think this is what you mean…and your friend is right…your forearm would only be perpendicular to the floor if you were an extreme over the top guy…i’m thinking more like a Mussina or Jim Palmer but that isn’t even straight over the top…the straight over the top would be like a guy who throws in cricket…most all pitchers in the bigs are going to be your 3/4 guy (somewhere in that range of low to high 3/4) unless they are a specialist and their arm is never perpendicular (neither upper or lower) to the floor. You know what I see sometimes is kids trying to keep their wrist straight, so it is on top of the ball…so the arm is completely straight at a 3/4 angle which now makes it diagonal lets say…then they try to make the wrist straight up and down by inverting it…does this make sense?? I understand it perfectly…LOL


#17

I was watching “Hot Stove” on the MLB Network last evening, and Harold Reynolds—one of the most intelligent broadcasters, commentators, analysts, whatever—made a very good point in the course of a discussion of pitchers coming back from injury. He said that Joel Zumaya, who is getting back into action after having missed more than a season due to Tommy John surgery, is going to have to make some drastic changes in his mechanics or else he’s facing another such surgery. He was always pitching with a delivery that had his elbow very low, way below his shoulder—and that spells trouble. I long contended that the idea is for the elbow to be on a level with the shoulder, neither higher nor lower—as a sidearmer I always threw that way—and as one other poster said, that’s the key to arm health.
Are you listening, Zumaya? 8)


#18

It is difficult to determine exactly if a low elbow causes injury frankly because numerous pitchers who have had very successful careers had low elbows.

Maddux for example had a very low elbow throughout his career.

One can make the argument against a significant dropping of the elbow. By this I mean as the arm rotates in the high cock position, it can be an indicator of a timing issue if the elbow drops significantly. For example look at Mark Mulder and how low his elbow is.

Also notice the differences between maddux who looks powerful yet also relaxed. He is making it look very easy. This is the correct sequencing of muscles. Mulder on the other hand looks like he’s putting a lot of effort into the throw. It also looks uncomfortable. His arm is being dragged into release.

Notice in these two pictures how mulder is essentially spinning, his momentum is being inefficiently transferred as his body tries to compensate for his dragging arm and low elbow.

http://cache1.asset-cache.net/xc/81357104.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA548B431FC8B1C8C4D91D7808D6E42D58462BDC69D3328E8BE65

http://cache3.asset-cache.net/xc/81426968.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF8789215ABF3343C02EA5486A832F6D14379332603888ACDF958BB964BD9E1D27ED458A

In Maddux’s pictures notice how he is throwing from essentially a similar arm slot but his momentum is being transferred much more efficiently thus leading to his control and ability to stay healthy.

This tiny bit of difference can make or break a players career.


#19

Even thought there are some very solid pitchers that have had low elbows there are some other issues (besides for injury) that could be considered, throwing down from the mound throught the zone vs throwing flat, easiest thing to hit is a flat fastball. Also it can make it harder to fully apply the torque energy to the ball in order to generate more velocity.


#20

Priceless, low behind doesn’t necessarily translate to low out front, Greg certainly didn’t have a low arm slot…this is essence of why stills make very little difference or explain very little in the dynamic process of delivering a pitch. Of course someone like O’Leary would differ on that thought but I stand behind it.