Why so many arm injuries? By guest writer Buddy Biancalana
For more on Buddy and Zone Training read this great Washington Post Article
This past week I¬†began working with a professional pitcher.
As he was getting his arm¬†loose prior to his third consecutive day of throwing off a mound, I asked him how his arm felt?¬†He said the following:
“I feel I have¬†not thrown¬†at all the past two¬†days versus actually having thrown. And we threw quite a few pitches each day.”
I have heard this before. So, how can he possibly feel this way?
Here is an article¬†I wrote¬†last season. It will provide some insight¬†to his¬†comment:
After looking at the transactions from the last few days I am alarmed by the number of injuries to pitchers. One national baseball writer told me he identified more than 25 players on Major League Disabled Lists due to Tommy John surgeries. At a time when medical people understand more about the body and coaches understand more about effective mechanics, injuries are even more prevalent. Why?
Try moving your finger without a thought. It can’t be done. The operating system of the muscles is in the brain, it is not in the muscles. When working with an athlete, most coaches are working at the surface level of the motion, where the bigger, bulkier, stronger muscles play a more dominant role in motion, versus working at the foundation or origin of the motion, which of course is the brain.
Think of it like molding a piece of clay. What is the first thing a potter does to the clay? He moistens it so the clay can become malleable. If he doesn’t moisten it, it would be difficult to make any changes to the clay.
Not ‘moistening’ the mind, not working at the more refined level of the mind, working on the surface level of the mind, can create a “tug of war” between the big muscles and the subtler fast twitch muscles. Doctors and trainers have told me that tendons and ligaments get caught up in the battle. This tug of war results in forced, ineffective and inconsistent motion which creates strain and leads to weakness and possible injury. It is the fast twitch muscles in the body that allow a ball to come smoothly out of a pitcher’s hand or allow a hitter to make a last split second adjustment. The fast-twitch muscles can only fire when the mind experiences deeper levels of quietness.
It is over-stressed in baseball that a pitcher has to have picture perfect mechanics in order to pitch well and stay injury free, without a thorough understanding of where motion originates. The over-emphasis on these picture perfect mechanics creates an out of balance situation in the mind that causes the body to tighten up during the motion, which strains the body.
Now, picture perfect mechanics are wonderful. There is no argument here. But ask any pitcher what their inner experience is when they have their best outing and they will say the whole process felt effortless. They will talk about how well the ball was coming out of their hand. When they had their best outing, they were able to access the muscle memory they already had stored in their brain and their natural talent rose to the surface. The key to longevity, staying injury-free and successful careers for pitchers, is to teach them how to effortlessly access their muscle memory that is stored in the basal ganglia of the brain.
When there is an over-emphasis on mechanics during the game, a pitcher can not usually access the muscle memory they have stored. At this point the bulkier, core muscles dominate the motion and strain is created and injuries are more likely to occur.
“I did all the core work, all the arm exercises and still ended up on the DL two years in a row” said Zone Training client Aaron Laffey. “Accessing the gap, allows the larger muscles to shut down. I haven’t had a dead arm or experienced fatigue in the two years since going through Zone Training. I am able to recover better than I ever have. There is no reason I can’t throw 200 innings every year.”
There is a correct method to change a pitchers mechanics that will also allow him to quickly store muscle memory. Then you have the best of both worlds. This is neither an opinion nor a belief, but a neuro-physiological fact.
When an athlete works on his mechanics from the origin of the motion, the fast twitch muscles become enlivened, and the bigger muscles play the supporting role instead of the more dominant role. One’s body awareness also increases along with being able to access muscle memory. This is not important to know; just important to do if an athlete wants the best chance of staying injury free and having repeatable, fluid, effective motion.
Co-founder PMPM Sports-Zone Training
Co-author, The 7 Secrets of World Class Athletes
“These guys have discovered something that is going to have a huge impact wherever it is taught.” George Brett, Baseball Hall of Fame
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