"Reverse Forearm Bounce"

[size=18]Reverse Forearm Bounce[/size]

I was recently checking out some slow-mo clips of top-ranked college pitchers and I came across a video of this kid:

His name’s Logan Verrett, now a sophomore at Baylor. At 6’2” 170lbs the kid is a beanpole, and yet he was gunned as high as 94 mph when this clip was taken his freshman year. Given another couple years to keep maturing and build up some strength, this kid should be touching upper 90s by the time he’s draft eligible. The scouting report on this website had only positive things to say about him, until it mentioned that his mechanics included a common flaw of “traditional” mechanics: “reverse forearm bounce.”

I was scratching my head at this point. That’s a BAD thing? You see, every high level thrower (yes, this includes outfielders and anyone else who throws at least mid 90s) that I have ever seen, not to mention nearly all amateur players as well (to varying degrees) exhibit this mechanical trait. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me first present you with the definition of “reverse forearm bounce” that the website provided, and explain why it was called a “flaw.”

Reportedly coined by Mike Marshall, this “bounce” refers to “the downward motion of the pitching forearm caused by the inertial mass of the ball, pitching hand, and pitching forearm.”

That is, the “forearm layback” that every high level thrower exhibits. I’m not really sure how many examples I need to supply our readers with to prove this point, so I’ll just include some synchronized clips of a diverse assortment of both active and retired high level throwers. These throwers range in peak velocity from mid 90s to in excess of 100 mph.

[size=9]Note that I did not use photos as evidence for my claim. Although photos are far better than nothing, and in this specific case may have sufficed, when it comes to illustrating a point that has to do with mechanics, photos can be taken way out of context. For example, a player reaches landing position with their hips open, shoulders closed, throwing arm vertical – the classic “high cocked” position…but how did they get to that position? Unless you have a very trained eye, it can be hard to tell much from just a photo of a player at landing position unless you know how to look for subtle cues that give away how they got there (elbows pinched back, back foot turned over, etc.) So to better make a point when it comes to mechanics, do yourself a favor and learn to use clips to illustrate this kind of thing (maybe this will be the topic of a future post if there is sufficient interest).

So what reasons did the website give as to why “Reverse forearm bounce” was a flaw? And, additionally, is this something that can (or should) be fixed, or is it just an inherent, albeit stressful, part of throwing hard?

This particular website cites various studies showing that the more extreme the “bounce” and the closer the throwing elbow is flexed to 90, the greater the stress will be on the UCL. Is this true? Yes, I have no reason to doubt the studies – in fact, I would have been surprised if this was not what the studies had concluded. My point though, is that high level throwing is inherently stressful on shoulder and elbow – this is apparent from looking at ANY 95 mph thrower, noting the elbow flexed to 90 degrees during acceleration, and the ridiculous amount of external rotation (near 180 degrees) at the glenohumeral joint. To go a step further, I’m asserting that the very mechanical traits that allow a player to hit such high velocities are the same traits that place the most stress on the throwing arm. That is, the “bounce” is necessary because it

  1. increases the range of motion over which force is applied to the baseball.

If we’re trying to maximize velocity (v= distance traveled/time) then one way to do it is increasing distance traveled over which force is applied to the ball while holding time constant. Thus, a player with a full 180 degrees of external rotation is going to throw harder than a player with 160 degrees of ER if all other variables are held constant.

  1. increases the reflexive action and thus strengthens the following concentric contraction of the internal rotators of the shoulder due to the Stretch Shortening Cycle.

The SSC basically says that when you eccentrically lengthen a muscle under tension (in this case all the internal rotators) it will store elastic energy (like a rubber band) which can then be used to strengthen the following concentric contraction. The quicker and more powerful the “Stretch” the more powerful the resulting contraction has the potential to be (provided all of it can be harnessed).

What though, is the significance of this conclusion? What should you do with this knowledge? Should you stunt your potential as a pitcher by focusing solely on reducing the stress to your UCL? (see marshall video) That depends on your goal. If you’re attempting to reach the highest levels of the game, it’s pretty much a given that you need a good fastball. Like it or not, scouts don’t care about 85 mph fastballs unless you’re absolutely flawless in every other aspect of your performance. Even Greg Maddux had a low 90s heater out of high school…without it he may not have ever been given a shot at professional ball. If, however, you just want to have fun, allegedly improve your chances of staying healthy and in all likelihood not make it past high school ball then by all means, reduce your “reverse forearm bounce,” stop trying to throw hard and follow the advice of this scouting report and of Dr. Marshall (see video). Otherwise, keep throwing the crap out of the ball, making sure to manage as best as possible the inherent risk that accompanies these throws. Guys like Eric Cressey have figured this out pretty damn well.

Dr. Marshall showing how to allegedly reduce UCL wear and tear while simultaneously stunting velocity:

I don’t even know where to start on this video, so I’ll leave it to you to decide what to make of it for now. I look forward to hearing your comments and opinions!

It is impossible to replicate high level throwing mechanics without a risk of injury, specifically in the shoulder. The human body is not made to sustain such forces at a high intensity for very long. That’s what infuriates me about Marshall throwers; they simply choose to ignore the fact that not ONE of their throwers have achieved high velocities/a good pro career.

Baseball Beginnings has some good footage, but their mechanical analysis’ are sketchy. I recommend checking out Gerrit Cole on the site, he’s been clocked at 99.

Marshall is exactly right on the stressful aspects of the traditional pitching motion. I give him a lot of credit for being able to describe it accurately. However, he’s exactly wrong on what the solution is. His alleged “solution”, as has been pointed out numerous times, has not produced a successful, high level pitcher who can achieve velocities anywhere near what the traditional motion can.

This is clearly a nasty motion we’re talking about here. Nasty. Injurious, yes. Effective in achieving velo, yes.

…but, despite all of the long toss, Jobe exercises, resistance band work and pitch counts, we still have a crazy number of shoulder and elbow injuries. It’s nasty, I tell you, nasty.

Nyman would say “high risk-reward”. It’s the hazard of the sport.

I find it incredible to hear people speak of how you need to do this exercise or that, or do long toss, etc. and then claim that it will stop you from getting injured. Yes, people say that. It’s simply not been proven to be true. Pitchers get injured, a lot.

House talks about training and/or strengthening the decelerators. The internal rotators are decelerators in the “reverse forearm bounce” scenario. Can they be trained to withstand the stresses we try desperately to subject them to? A kinesiologist friend of mine says that the tendons cannot. Muscles, yes.

So, Lanky, you gave a good description of things in your post. Yes, it’s injurious. Yes, Marshall’s motion is a solution to the safety issue. So is not throwing at all. Marshall’s motion just is NOT the solution to safety AND velo. So, take Marshall’s talk for what it’s worth. A description of why the traditional motion is injurious. Stop there, though. The rest is rhetoric and a lot of theory.

It is ironic to me that I know more ladies who have become debilitated with carpel tunnel than I have pitchers with serious, surgical injury to their throwing arm (I work for a wireless company and in one of my career assignments I was associated with a call center). So many that we as a corporation ended up making ergonomic accomodations for really anyone that got uncomfortable…but that is another story…my point is that in the course of pursueing a passion, it is a given that some associated injury can and will happen. I really cannot think of a athletic action that is “danger free” so to speak…I mean think about it. You can get injured fishing. I mean I jumped off of a 3 inch curb and junked my back all up…I mean seriously hosed it up…I don’t know…I know it can be minimized, I know that properly approached you have a relatively reasonable chance that you may not cripple yourself…and not getting hit by a bus crossing the street tomorrow…or have the Kraeken swallow you whole on a low pass next Tuesday.
Football players have a 100% chance of injury…gotta feel like hockey players are somewhere close to the same pct… I think personally that the reason we have more arm injury is over-use, with less knowledgable preparation before hand…I would bet that is the largest proportion of the list…followed by genetic predisposition and faulty mechanics and simple accidental things like slipping or landing funny. Quite honestly in my elderly state I see the whole lifetime pursuit of this art as a winnowing process…and the things that have people fall away are as diverse as can be imagined…girls, careers, drugs, alcohol, not good enough, better at another sport, sickness, somebody elses sickness…guys like Maddux are like the charactor in the movie “The One”…that one guy who gets through all of the trials and stands on top of the pyramid…figuratively speaking of course…but really when you think about it…there IS only one Maddux…or Ryan or other rubber armed multi year player. It is merciless as you get closer to the top. I certainly was shocked at the level of cut throat behavior I witnessed in my sons freshman year at college…what shocks me is that I know it only gets more intense as the competition gets tougher…can hardly imagine it at the professional level… It saddens me when I see someone who loves the art fall away…but it is what happens, I’ll fall away too someday just like those before us did.

I have heard plenty of stories about pitching coaches who espouse one or another way of throwing as the One True Path, otherwise known as “My way or the highway”. Mike Marshall (not to be confused with the journeyman outfielder of the same name) is, as we know, one of these creatures who just don’t take into consideration the individuality of a pitcher’s delivery, what’s going to work for the individual—and frankly, I have had a bellyful of him and other coaches and self-styled instructors and their pet theories. Pitching is not—I repeat, NOT—a “one size fits all” enterprise, because as we all know one size does not fit all. Or to put it another way, what’s sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander.
Looking at those clips, I noticed that every single one of those pitchers throws either straight overhand or a high 3/4 delivery, and they all seem to have been cut out with the same cookie-cutter. One can try to explain with abstruse theories and complicated kinesiological theories, but the simple fact is that they’re all throwing the same way, at least as I see it, and in mhy opinion they’re letting themselves in for all kinds of injuries. Ugh. :roll:

I doubt very much if Marshall’s pitchers will have many injuries pitching because they don’t throw hard enough and they won’t even get to throw often enough in game situations. The motion is a lot safer, I believe. It’s just not effective.

so is throwing underhand like in softball. That may as well have been his proposed solution. The best softball pitchers can carry an entire team pitching nearly every inning of every game.

I remember this travenling squad of beer bellied home run smashing guys called the King and his Court, it was like 5 guys and they would play college teams and high school teams for charity…Coors had the Silver Bullets who were a team of women who did the same thing and those pitchers, threw every game and were nearly untouchable.

may i know who is the top right corner pitcher in the GIF???

is that Roy Oswalt ???

and the one next to it, is it Strasburg???

how come become lefty?

[quote=“hydejing”]may i know who is the top right corner pitcher in the GIF???

is that Roy Oswalt ???

and the one next to it, is it Strasburg???

how come become lefty?[/quote]

yeah. I made them lefty because I’m a lefty myself and it better helped me compare them to my own mechanics and to each other.