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TCB Question of the Week: More on pitching risk factors and prevention

Following up on Brooks' Links Post from Friday, let's talk a little more about pitcher injuries

Once agian, we're trying to get these weekly discussions going. This time, it's one on pitching injuries, as Kyle Boddy responded to a recent article from Tom Verducci and others. I'll get to more in the email setup. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments section.


Brooks took this on in Friday's Daily Links post, but I wonder if Kyle Boddy's interesting article here might drive some more discussion we can use for a post on Monday. One of the best quotes from the piece:

So, is overuse a real problem? I have no doubt that some coaches and parents out there abuse their kids by leaving them in games too often. However, the 30th pitch of the inning and the 30th pitch of the game in the third inning aren't the same stress-wise, and this is a factor that should hopefully be understood by coaches and parents alike. But outright blaming showcases and select teams for the rise in pitching injuries is irresponsible, considering none of these studies controlled for the ability of the pitchers in question - of course the pitchers who throw hard and are more effective tend to do more showcases, and this effect can be very large.

My anecdote to add to the foray. In 2012, a local pitcher just dominated competition. He was about 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds with a wipeout slider. Ended up going to Lamar and playing his true freshman season as a reliever. That is, until he blew out his arm.

During his senior year, I wrote a story about him because he went up to 120 pitches in a game. I talked to his coach, who was a pitcher in college, about it and he said he didn't care as much about pitch counts as he did about watching the guy throw. If he was tiring and his mechanics were slipping, he got him out.

Now, does the instances of throwing many pitches in a game lead to pitching injuries? Or was his reliance on a slider (which he had just picked up in his junior year) the real reason?

I think you know which way I might lean on this argument, but wondered if anyone else had thoughts we could talk through.


Keith law has repeatedly said that It's not the pitch count but pitching when tired and the mechanics are starting to be affected by the fatigue.


Why can't it be both? That post by Kyle discusses a research article showing that both pitching with fatigue and slider usage play significant roles in arm injuries for pitchers.

My concern with what that coach said is really the exact thing Kyle points out as the problem. High school coaches have this idea in their head that they can see everything. Fatigue isn't seen with the human eye until it's beyond fatigue. Slipping mechanics with the human eye? You can see some differences. But you can't see changes in neuromuscular firing patterns to compensate for a fatiguing muscle.

That's the real root of the issue. Amateur coaches using subjective "measurements" to determine usage. Amateur coaches knowing nothing about training throwing kids out there with terrible mechanics and not knowing how to fix it. Those some coaches taking those poor mechanics that overload the body with stress and having him throw too many pitches.


What's interesting is that said coach wanted to protect his pitchers. He just has no idea how to do it. Or the fact that the best way to do so may be with a more rigorous training program, using techniques developed through strength coaches at the cutting edge of the industry.

I have no doubt that the kid in question's slider use played a big part in his arm trouble, but those 120 pitch games could not have helped, no matter how fatigued he looked.


I suspect it's a little of both. Fatigue, leading to arm drop etc. is not good, nor is the heavy use of a breaking ball in high school. If you want your high school pitcher to throw something that moves, let him throw a 2 seam fastball, and teach him a changeup.


I watched a 12 yo little leaguer throw 116 pitches last week and his mechanics were off enough that *I* noticed and that is not something I can easily see typically.

That kid has no hope.


I said this on twitter earlier this morning. Major League pitchers rarely throw 120 pitches in a game. Why are high school kids throwing more pitches? In shorter games to boot. It's ludicrous. A ML pitcher that throws that much does so in 8 or 9 innings. These coaches have them do it in 5 or 6. It's irresponsible.

I'm actually against heavy CH usage for youth pitchers as well. Not only for results which tend to be not good for youth pitchers due to slowing a pitch down when youth hitters main deficit is catching up to velocity. But the simple fact it's hard to throw a CH and get the desired affects of it without changing your arm action considerably.

A 12 year old should NEVER EVER throw that many pitches. I don't care how good his mechanics are. Great mechanics for a 12 year old are still poor mechanics.


During the time my son pitched, I was the bench coach for his summer/travel team. Among my responsibilities was pitch count. I (We) never let anyone exceed 90 pitches. It's just not worth it. For what, to win a meaningless summer game against other 16-17 year old kids? And at what expense?

I have detailed this before, but I got to watch the handling of a true phenom prospect the last 2 years. At NO time did Coach Massiatte allow Kohl Sterart to ever exceed 100 pitches, with 1 notable exception, when Pius faced Thomas in the State semis and Kohl would NOT come out of a 4-0 game. Even then, he only threw 107 as I recall.

To Subber: Even a circle change, thrown the same way a 4 seam is thrown with a circlechange grip? This is interesting, I never heard that. But, yes, sometimes a kid that throws 90 plays into the hands of the hitter when he throws a change


This is exactly why most high school pitchers don't throw changeups. High school hitters struggle against velocity, even more than against movement. You're helping them out by taking something off.


I can't find it right now, but Kyle Boddy did write about it for his Driveline Blog about how high speed video shows significant changes in arm action. I don't have a problem with it later on for a junior or senior after significant practice.


The Verducci article brought up the point that young international pitchers who sign with ML organizations at a young age have lower rates of TJ surgery than U.S. high school draftees. This is probably close to anecdotal evidence, because the sample probably doesn't reach statistical significance; but it does support the view that the damage is done to many U.S. draftees' arms before they are under the MLB organization's control. At the age of 16, international scouts are "projecting" a prospect's pitching ability even though the velocity is probably around the 85 mph threshold that Brooks mentioned. After they sign, there is no need for the international prospect to impress MLB teams with high 90's velocity at the age of 17 or 18.

Maybe there are other explanations for the increase in TJ surgery by young pitchers, but the showcases, number of high school pitchers with high velocity, and year round pitching seem like an obvious change which occurred at the same time. As an aside, I was startled to read (in Verducci's article) that some parents carry smart phone sized radar guns to their 12 or 13 year old son's games.


Earlier this season, I saw the parents of a pitcher mount a camera behind home plate and then stream the video of his pitches to a iPad. It also intrigued me. Why couldn't area scouts do this? Why couldn't they record video for someone else back at the home office to break down, on mechanics and the like?


Lyles article breaks down verduccis really well. It's long. But it discredits the idea of velocity being the culprit. Velocity is not. It's poor training and overuse by year round competition and extended pitch counts while fatigued.

Like I said in my article this morning, throwing year round is good. Pitching competitively is not. Brady Aiken did it right. He put himself out there with summer circuits but took the winter off.

I posited the question at the end and I was trying to do it as a feel for how people will apply it to the draft.

Given the closeness of Aiken and Kolek in talent level and Rodon potentially sliding, does Aiken suddenly fit the bill of an Astros pick? Yes HS pitchers a risky, and they've gotten riskier. But with the reason likely being over used with year round pitching, is Aiken actually safer? Safer than Rodon even?

To David: I don't mind parents doing that. I'll do that. As long as those parents know what to do with it. Kyle offers a service of video that clients who can't come to his facility can use. They send him high speed video and hell do a biomechanical analysis and offer training advice and things to change in the delivery for improved velocity and reduced injury.

Nothing wrong with that. I would hope that ML teams do that. I've seen scouts record video at the AAA level.


Brooks, I was there to watch a friend's son pitch (the other team). He was done after about 50 pitches which seemed like a reasonable amount at that age (but I don't really know). Two dads and I sat there lamenting the fact that the over-thrower was pretty good - had good control for his age and some serious velocity, but would lose it by high school based on the number of pitches he was throwing.


There's actually a camera that I want but is 1000 bucks that does high speed video and comes with an app specifically for breaking down athletes mechanics in various sports. You can draw angles and everything in real time. Perfect for a pitching coach.

You can actually do that with an iPhone app (I have it) called ubersense that records high speed video and you do a lot with it. It's free but it's limited by the quality of the iPhone camera and the zoom.


(Weeone)'s coaches use video ALL THE TIME in swimming. They use above water and underwater video to keep an eye on stroke mechanics to make sure they're not doing something to destroy their shoulders since they do incredible amounts of yardage a week. Those videos are also used to tweak other things about strokes, but it's an amazing tool.


That's fantastic! Props to them and to you for finding a coach that is willing to use tools and methods to identify problems that their eyes may not see.


It's pretty common in swimming, especially at the HS and college level. Sabrina just happens to swim for a pretty amazing group of coaches. I wish I could take credit, but I lucked into it.

Interestingly, when she goes to Longhorn Swim Camp at UT with the UT coaches, they only video them once in that week, whereas Aggie Swim Camp at A&M videos them every day of the week....some places are more progressive and comfortable with video than others. :)


Figures those aggie coaches would be better :) amirite David?


For the record, I did not attend UT nor A&M so I have no bias...but the Aggie Women's swim team is #1 in the country and UT's is around #7 or 8 now.


If she plans on getting into Equestrian USC is number one.


What, they swim on horseback?


Yeah, it's called "water polo"


Sorry if this has been addressed (just reading through the thread now,) but scouts do this all the time.


I use ubersense multiple times a week with my hurdler. I didn't coach her last year, but she's dropped 1.1 off her 100 meter hurdle over the course of this season. I think video was the biggest difference maker.


Awesome. I encourage all coaches to. I use it on occasion with therapy. Although I haven't had much opportunity lately since I haven't been treating athletes.