More on elbows

If you’ve read my other posts you know that I’m 32 years old and in the process of “re-learning” how to throw after not touching a baseball for twenty years. Just when I thought I was getting it…

So yesterday, I threw with some guys from work for about thirty minutes during lunch, just playing catch. About five minutes in, I noticed my elbow getting a little sore. It got continually worse, and when we got back to the office I was in quite a bit of pain. The pain started with a light throb in the back of my arm, right where the tricep connects to the elbow, and gained intensity as it extended into the joint. It was more on the outside of the joint than the inside. It hurt for several hours, then just magically seemed to disappear. Very strange…especially since I’m getting to the age where I don’t heal as fast as I used to. Recovering from what appeared to be a serious joint strain in a few hours…obviously, something else was going on.

My theory is that I wasn’t following through properly. I was stopping my follow through a little short, causing me to slightly hyperextend my elbow with each throw. I also wasn’t getting my legs and hips into the motion enough, probably because I was trying to be too conservative and not risk wild pitches. Some test throws afterwards seemed to confirm this. I was also having a hard time getting any velocity on the ball. I can throw pretty hard when everything is working right, but yesterday things were obviously not working right. I realize now (after some more reading) that I was rotating my shoulders before my hips. I need to work on that.

Does it sound like I’m on the right track? Any theories as to what else I may have been doing wrong, and how to avoid it in the future?

This is probably part of it.

The pain is probably from your elbow rapidly extending to its limits. This can cause the Olecranon to slam into its fossa, which produces pain in the area. If you stop your follow through short, you could increase the force with which your elbow extends.

A couple of other things to look for…

  1. Do you bring the ball close to your ear (e.g. elbow only extended 45 degrees)? If so, that would increase the amount that your elbow will extend. You might want to try to have your elbow bent 90 or 135 degrees at the moment that your forearm is vertical and your shoulders start to turn.

  2. You could also be supinating your forearm as you release the ball (twisting your forearm clockwise so you finish thumb up as if hitchhiking). Instead, you want to pronate as you release the ball (as when throwing a football) so that you finish thumb down.

I’d be surprised if you’re hyperextending your elbow from not following through. In general, I think that if you’re not following through, then you’re going to feel it in the back side of the shoulder as your asking the decellerators to do more work than should be necessary.

The pronation after release should happen automatically - it’s a biomechanical inevitable - assuming you’re not cutting short your follow-through. I wouldn’t focus on that.

My guess (and it is just a guess) is that you may simply need to build up functional strength. Lot’s of long toss would be good start.

In my experience this isn’t always the case.

Last year I had a 10U pitcher develop medial (inner) elbow pain. As it turned out he was inadvertently supinating his wrist as he came through the release point (basically throwing a slider which was wicked on batters but hurt his arm). I taught him how to pronate through the release point and the pain went away.

Are you sure he wasn’t suppinating and then pronating. That’s was makes the breaking ball hard on the arm - not just supinating but subpinating, changing directions and then pronating. I’ve yet to see someone that doesn’t pronate (unless they don’t follow through).

Yes. As he came through the release point he would start to supinate his forearm. By the time his arm stopped against his chest, his palm was facing the catcher.

This is actually a very natural motion (more so than pronating), but it focuses the load on the UCL and cause the bones of the elbow to slam together.

Football players naturally pronate, but in my experience baseball players typically don’t (especially when throwing curves and sliders).

Thanks for the responses.

I still haven’t figured out exactly what’s causing this, but it seems to only happen towards the end of a throwing workout when my arm starts getting tired. Apparently, as my arm gets fatigued I’m making some kind of adjustment to compensate that’s doing something to my elbow. My approach is simply to start winding down when I feel the elbow start to twinge. The silver lining is, I now have a built-in alarm that tells me when my workout is over. It’s also a good way to judge progress - I can throw a lot more, and a lot harder, than I could last week before my elbow starts to bother me. My hope is that as my mechanics, muscle memory, and arm strength continue to improve, the problem will disappear altogether.