…in the eye of the beholder.
When I was very young and naïve I believed that “science” could answer all questions. Specifically when it came to understanding movement and motion physics could answer all questions. As time went on I began to understand that what we call science is nothing more than a temporary state of attempting to explain cause-and-effect. Temporary in that science (physics) changes as new cause-and-effect relationships are discovered. In recent years I’ve “discovered” a fascinating new field of study dealing with the behavior of nonlinear dynamic systems also known as chaos theory. One of the most fascinating aspects of chaos theory is the concept of initial conditions and self organization. From Wikipedia:
[quote]Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, physics, economics and philosophy studying the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. This sensitivity is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect. Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for chaotic systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved. In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.
Chaotic behavior can be observed in many natural systems, such as the weather. Explanation of such behavior may be sought through analysis of a chaotic mathematical model, or through analytical techniques such as recurrence plots and Poincaré maps.[/quote]
Having spent the better part of 15 years trying to understand how the body optimally throws a ball and swings a bat which includes working with over 20 players have been drafted, being invited to major-league spring training to work with minor-league pitchers, written numerous articles on how the body swings and throws optimally and developed numerous devices to measure what happens when you swing or throw I can say that based upon my own personal experience and training in physics and engineering that any attempts to categorically attribute injury by observing on videotape how a player throws a baseball has about the same probability of success as picking the right number on one spin of a roulette wheel.
Specific to Kyle’s article regarding Strasburg’s injury. I have copies of the same study(s) Kyle quotes from along with others from biomechanics and medical journals. The common denominator is that maximum UCL stress (stress most likely contributing to UCL injury) occurs during maximum external rotation (MER) and in most instances at the point just prior to MER as illustrated by the following:
One of the great problems is that those who do the studies really don’t understand what it takes to maximally throw baseball. For example in order to maximally transfer momentum to the baseball i.e. kinetic chain or as I would like to term it kinetic whip, momentum is transferred segmentally from larger mass slow moving to smaller mass faster moving i.e. conservation of momentum principle. This can be seen in pitchers as momentum from the larger body parts lower trunk moves its way up through the smaller body parts upper body shoulders and finally through the arm. In our to maximize the with the fact and momentum transfer their something called degrees of freedom i.e. number of segments that are allowed to participate in the momentum transfer process. This is where flexibility i.e. the ability to involve greater number of joints and muscles in the transfer process becomes vitally important in maximizing throwing velocity and as important if not more importantly maximizing throwing efficiency i.e. minimizing the amount of stress on the body and connective tissue.
Maximum throwing velocity will occur if momentum for rotation of the upper torso is maximally coupled to the throwing arm. This occurs if I’m segments are brought into the plane of rotation of the shoulders i.e. through external rotation of the upper arm. There is a study that shows the correlation between external rotation velocity and that young players who have thrown a lot develop what’s called humerral retroversion, i.e. a twist in the upper arm bone favoring external rotation which actually puts less stress on the shoulder when throwing a baseball.
Based on these principles no matter what one does there is a minimal valgus stress for a given body type, physical condition and throwing mechanics and desired throwing velocity. And as stated previously this about the stress occurs just prior to maximum extra rotation regardless of how the arm got to maximum external rotation.
There are also two points that I wish to clarify with respect to the “inverted W” and scapula loading.
Kyles articles states the following:
[quote]When the arm is taken behind the body in this position, it must return to the neutral/anterior portion of the trunk to deliver the ball to the plate. As a result, this will cause peak shoulder horizontal adduction angular velocity to increase, which causes elbow valgus to increase.
“Scapular loading” is a popular term first posited as a mechanical cue that would help improve fastball velocity by Paul Nyman of SETPRO. While he has since taken down his website, you can find this quote on it using The Wayback Machine (all typos his):
Fact: SETPRO was the first to sunderstand and show the difference between HORIZONTAL ADDUCTION or what SETPRO call “SCAPULA LOADING” and HYPEFLEXING. Almost all power pitchers SCAPULA LOAD. SCAPULA LOADING is vital to developing stretch reflex, storage of elastic energy and increasing the Range Of Motion (ROM) of the delivery.
Paul Nyman himself says that scapular loading is horizontal adduction (technically it’s horizontal abduction followed by fast horizontal adduction during the acceleration phase) and that he teaches it to all of his clients as it is vital to “developing stretch reflex.” That’s a story for another blog post, but the end result is absolutely clear: Scapular loading causes higher rates of peak shoulder horizontal adduction angular velocity and therefore causes greater elbow valgus, which we know is positively correlated with UCL rupture.[/quote]
The concept of the inverted W. was developed long before Internet gurus such as Chris O’Leary came on the scene. For the record the inverted W concept was perpetuated as a way to maximize throwing velocity per se.
The inverted W. concept came about in response to Dick Mills advocating that all pitchers should go to what he termed as the “high cock” (Statue of Liberty) position to throw baseball.
My response/reply was to this was/is that advocating going to the high cock position promoted stalling/break in the throwing sequence and that if if you look at pitchers such as John Smoltz (one of the best examples of the inverted W) there is no such thing as “going to the high cock position” The throwing processes one continual action of the arm. And that the inverted W was one of the best examples of this i.e. not going to the high cock position per se.
So the inverted W was/is not a de facto way of throwing the baseball optimally. It was simply a way of advancing the idea that throwing is a continuous process and that advocating a position (teaching dictum) such of the high cock interrupted a more optimal throwing process.
What became known as scapula loading started off as a rebuttal to both Dick Mills definition of hyper flexing of the shoulder and Mike Marshall’s a achromial line mandate, i.e. that there is a static line drawn through both shoulders which creates a plane which the elbow should never pass beyond.
This is similar to what Tom House called the goalpost position. My rebuttal was simply an anatomical observation that the shoulder complex was a dynamic entity i.e. had a number of degrees of freedom (adduction, abduction, rotation). It was a further observation that most pitchers who threw with high velocity had significant degrees of horizontal abduction of the shoulder i.e. pinching of the shoulder blades.
And yes there is a consequence of horizontal abduction or should I say the sequence of abduction to adduction, the consequence has to do with the transfer of momentum that the greater degree of involvement of the shoulder complex as part of the momentum transfer and development mechanism will create greater elbow stress simply by the fact that there is greater energy/momentum to deliver to the baseball. Or simply stated one rule of life that I’ve come to fully understand is that when it comes to energy and momentum you can’t get something for nothing.
What Chaos theory has to do with all of this simply that every human is unique there are an infinite number of ways to throw a baseball attempting to stereotype offer simple solutions when it comes to how the body swings or throws is in most cases an exercise in futility.[/quote]