The Time Is Now…

year round throwing manualThe time is now to jump into Alan Jaeger’s latest passion- the Year Round Throwing Manual.

After more than two decades working alongside countless amateur and professional baseball players, Jaeger put pen to paper and developed a detailed throwing plan that is applicable for pitchers of all shapes, sizes and ages.

“The inspiration for writing this was twofold,” said Jaeger. “First, we wanted to put all of our research and experience in one place, where a player, coach or parent could have as many questions answered as possible. Secondly, in response to the dramatic increase in arm injuries, we felt it was important to put information out there that could make a huge impact in the reduction of arm injuries and provide guidelines to help optimize the health, endurance, strength and recovery of the arm.”

The manual outlines a year-round plan for arm training, maintenance, rest and protection by detailing Jaeger’s time-tested protocols for arm training, keys to training the arm, how to ‘listen’ to the arm, and the role of long toss. Pre- and post-throwing arm care is also discussed. The Manual also discusses when the best time of year is to start a player’s ‘throwing cycle,’ along with how to approach the throwing cycle. Continue reading

The deconditioning of the arm

Dan Haren (AP image)

Dan Haren (AP image)

There are a myriad of programs, tools, methods, theories and opinions that attempt to address the rising number of arm injuries in baseball. Countless dollars and research hours have been spent by the medical community and countless time, energy and discussion has been made by the baseball community to quell this epidemic.

Alan Jaeger

Alan Jaeger

For Alan Jaeger, the solution is relatively simple- any high school, college or professional organization that puts heavy limits and restrictions on arms that are, comparatively, being so well trained and conditioned in this day and age are simply deconditioning arms. The current culture (in college baseball especially) places an emphasis on throwing more, rather than less, so pitchers are well protected in general. But when a well conditioned player comes up against a throwing program that places major limits on them (distance, time, workload), arms become very vulnerable to deconditioning.

This is prevalent at all levels but ironically at the “highest” level of baseball (the major leagues), a number of organizations are actually the most conservative. Whether it’s due to the amount of money players are paid, the change in philosophy from a pitcher being on their own or suddenly becoming part of an organization-wide structure or policy, pitchers going into professional baseball can be restricted the most. Through research and experience, about a third of MLB organizations mandate a throwing program that places restrictions on time allotted for throwing (i.e. 10-12 minutes) and distance (i.e. 120-150 feet) — in some cases, it can be very extreme (about a third are considered very liberal and individualized, and the other third are somewhere in the middle).
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USA Baseball and MLB team up to help young players reduce arm injuries

pitchsmart screenshot

The MLB and USA baseball recently launched Pitch Smart, a comprehensive resource for safe pitching practices that features a series of practical, age-appropriate guidelines to help parents, players and coaches avoid overuse injuries and foster longer, healthier careers for youth pitchers. The education program, offered online at pitchsmart.org, is intended to teach parents and coaches about injury risks to baseball players, particularly with youth pitchers.

The initiative is a result of the growing number of elbow injuries to pitchers at all levels of baseball, particularly in Major League Baseball. It was originally ordered from former Commissioner Bud Selig.

“You start to appreciate how comprehensive their concerns are,” Arizona Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa told MLB Network, speaking of Major League Baseball and USA Baseball. “You recognize that at the professional level, the incident of injuries and surgeries is up. We’re now realizing that part of the reason is that young kids are making mistakes that affect their health and their future.” Continue reading

Arm care part two

Check out Arm care part one here

The second half of our two-part “Armcare” series features a Q&A with two of the foremost experts on shoulder and elbow injuries.

Why do you think we haven’t seen a pronounced spike like this in injury rates before?

Michael Ciccotti

Michael Ciccotti

Michael Ciccotti: Part of it might be that we didn’t understand these injuries quite as much at the time as we do now. Ballplayers today, with the way they’re recruited into high school, college and ultimately professional baseball, it almost necessitates that they start focusing on exclusively baseball at incredibly early ages. Arguably, they have more mileage on them than the elite level ballplayers decades ago, and more mileage on them than multi-sport athletes today.

Up until college and sometimes through college, players used to play multiple sports; there was a broad balance of stress throughout the musculoskeletal system, rather than years and years of competitive stress in the same areas of the body. It’s like having two beautiful cars; one of them has a thousand miles on it and the other has 50,000 miles on it. They look the same, they’re both beautiful, but the car that has 50,000 miles on it is more likely to have problems than the other car.

What can coaches do to mitigate the occurrence of arm injuries with their players?

Ben Kibler

Ben Kibler

Ben Kibler: Coaches are very observational and analytical. They can pick out a lot of things and compare them to the standard that they’ve developed. We need to look for the cause of the observed motions: the elbow dips because the shoulder is tired, the shoulder blade is slumping down or the legs are weak. Arms are slow because of hip weakness, resulting in the arm being behind. If you look at the legs, you can find most of the problems associated with the hand, you can find hip weakness or a tight back. It is possible to observe these things, so coaches and doctors need to work together to agree on what is happening.

I worked with the Houston Astros for several years, and we got the point where the coaches and I were talking the same language, talking about the same things. Now I’m working to make that happen with the Kansas City Royals. The point is that sitting down across the table from each other is the best way to do it- ‘this is what I see, what do you see?’
Ultimately, it’s our goal to provide information through research to the coaches, allowing them go get the best players possible on their teams programs. The players benefit because things are getting done right and the professional teams are benefitting because in general, they’re getting a higher-quality product with less miles on it. It’s a big win all the way around if we can do this right.

MC: One of the things that coaches can provide has to do with mechanics of throwing. Some coaches are brilliant with that and other coaches are novice, but I think the majority of coaches have a sense of [the mechanics of throwing] and how to optimize mechanics. Number two is encouraging athletes to be well-conditioned from the ground-up. We’re focused on the shoulder and the elbow, but coaches can help make sure these athletes are involved in some sort of conditioning program that involves the legs, hips, and core along with the upper extremities.

When you’re a collegiate coach, it’s really hard; you’re there to win and your job security is often dependent on winning with 18, 19, and 20-year olds. You want the best players and you want them to be available.

How would you explain these injury rates in Latin American countries?
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Arm care part one

Our two-part “Arm care” series features a Q&A with two of the foremost experts on shoulder and elbow injuries:

Dr. Michael G. Ciccotti is a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Chief of Sports Medicine, and Director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University. He also serves as the Head Team Physician for the Philadelphia Phillies, and is the President of the Major League Baseball Team Physicians Association.

Michael Ciccotti

Michael Ciccotti

Dr. W. Ben Kibler is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and shoulder and elbow conditions with the Lexington (Ky.) Clinic. He has worked with professional baseball since 2001, and has been involved in spring training medical education for all levels of the Houston Astros’ sports medicine staff. He received his M.D. from Vanderbilt University, where he was an All-SEC outfielder for the Commodore baseball team

WHY WERE THERE SO MANY ARM INJURIES AT THE MLB LEVEL THIS YEAR?

Michael Ciccotti: There are so many theories as to why there seems to be an epidemic of pitchers with UCL and other catastrophic injuries. One of the theories is the sports specialization that occurs so early in life. These pitchers that are currently in Major League Baseball in their first, second, or third year seem so protected, pitching every fifth day and with very strict pitch counts. In spite of that, we have this high incidence of catastrophic injury, whereas decades ago we had pitchers that would pitch every fourth day and with virtually no limit in terms of pitch counts in a single game.

Ben Kibler

Ben Kibler

Ben Kibler: First of all, it appears that the actual number of elbow and shoulder injuries is going up across the board from about age 15 on up. Secondly, our ability to treat these injuries is less than sterling. We operate on these people and they don’t get back to 100 percent and sometimes not even close to 100 percent.

We seem to hear a lot that players do better after Tommy John surgery and there is some evidence that for a short time you can achieve a level of competitiveness again, but it takes over a year and it makes the career shorter in the long-run. The point is that the treatment is not the answer.

The third point is that the impression of the major league team physicians and medical staffs is that they’re having to play “catch up” once players get into their system. There are a lot of miles on arms and other injuries on these guys once they show up. [The physicians and medical staffs] feel that there is a higher percentage of guys that are being drafted that have some wear and tear, stiffness, bad mechanics, a lot of things that make it harder for them to succeed at the highest level.

DO YOU CRINGE WHEN YOU WATCH THE LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES?

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Enjoy the ride

article by Keith Madison

article by Keith Madison

It’s October. That means post-season play for Major League Baseball and “fall ball” for college baseball and travel teams. It also means another informative and entertaining issue of Inside Pitch magazine.

One of the themes of this issue is near and dear to my heart…recruiting. I was intrigued to read the comments about recruiting from some of the top coaches in college baseball. It’s obvious that even though you must be a highly skilled player to compete at the next level, academics and intangibles such as character, attitude and respect for the game are extremely important, as well.

One year in the recruiting process, I had a partial scholarship reserved for an outfielder. After evaluating dozens of outfielders, I narrowed my search down to two players, both left handed hitters with similar skills. On their visits to campus, one of the recruits made my decision easy. While in my office talking about a particular game I had seen him play, his very quiet and very pleasant mother made a comment. This young outfielder proceeded to tell his mother that she didn’t know what she was talking about. His lack of respect for his mother helped me to offer the other outfielder the scholarship. In the end, integrity, competitiveness and respect will make a positive impact on a college coach. Continue reading