Continuing advancements in technology have given athletic trainers tools to help provide the best care for student athletes, and with that technology, medical care is advancing as well.
One of the most useful tools is Biomechanical Video Analysis. When a thrower uses their arm – whether they are a pitcher, volleyball player, or quarterback – it can be hard to see all of the parts of the motion with the naked eye. With video analysis, athletic trainers can see a particular movement and use diagrams to help illustrate the areas in need of corrective behaviors.
Using baseball players as an example, we see some common movement issues in young players which lead to injuries. By fixing these, we can help prevent many of the errors that young athletes tend to make.
Side-arm throwing. The elbow is a hinge! It is meant to move in one direction – flexion and extension. It is not designed to move sideways. But, when a young player is dropping their hand out to the side during a throw instead of throwing with a proper overhead motion, the acceleration places excessive strain on the ligaments that stabilize the elbow joint. The resulting pain is commonly known as ‘Little League Elbow’ and can shut a pitcher down.
Stride length. The distance between a pitcher’s feet at the end of a throw should be approximately 75% of their height. That stretch of the legs helps to load the muscles throughout the hips, core and chest and help provide power to the arm for the throw. Without proper loading, the arm has to make up the difference and overloads the shoulder joint and can lead to poor overall technique.
Core activation. A throw should never come from just the shoulder. We need to use our whole body to create power and not rely on just one part. Late activation of the core muscles puts the spine in an extended position, leaning back at ball release rather than curving forward, pulling the upper body and shoulders down. This acceleration of the upper body adds power to the throw so that the shoulder and arm aren’t creating it all by themselves.
Pitchers and field throwers
Hand position on the ball. Another common problem seen in both pitchers and field players is the hand position on the ball as they reach back to begin the throw. The hand should be on top of the ball, not on the side or under it. Having the hand on the side or below the ball can lead to twisting of the arm as they bring the ball forward, resulting in a side arm throw.
There are many parts to any athletic movement, and they all affect one another in a chain reaction. These are just a few of the common biomechanical issues we see and can correct. We use Video Analysis for numerous sports, including baseball, softball, volleyball, running and swimming. Athletic Trainers are experts in biomechanics and this tool helps us do even more for our young athletes.
Eric Leighton is the lead athletic trainer for Functional Rehab at Nationwide Children's Hospital Sports Medicine. He is also the lead of the Performing Arts Medicine section within Sports Medicine. Eric has treating patients for over 20 years with a focus on performing arts athletes and dancers.
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