The three bases every pitcher needs to cover
Often times pitchers complain of soreness in their forearm and elbow region. There are many possible causes of this type of issue but one cause that is easy to spot is improper follow-through arm mechanics, i.e., what the arm does immediately following ball release.
The mechanics of the pitching arm during this phase of the pitching motion are more important to the health of the forearm and elbow than one would think. Proper follow-through is essential to avoiding forearm tightness and upper arm soreness.
During the acceleration phase of the ball, the elbow joint is extending (straightening) at top velocities. These velocities are so great that the muscles on the front of the arm (the arm flexors) are called into play to slow down the rapidly extending elbow and comfortably decelerate it by flexing (bending) it. The flexors (biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis) are responsible for doing this.
What a proper follow-through arm motion looks like: it looks like the elbow bending and the arm wrapping itself around the pitcher. This is a rebound effect that causes the arm to flex (bend) to approximately 45 degrees and then immediately releases itself back to normal length.
It is important that the pitcher “allow” the arm flexors to do their job and bend the arm to slow down the elbow. Many pitchers forcefully keep their arm straight which means that, unknown to them, they are actually doing harm by resisting the natural forces that are trying to bend the arm.
Said easily, the arm wants to bend…let it! Resisting the tendency to bend can cause strain. Failure of effective deceleration by the elbow musculature will require the forearm motion to be stopped by the ligaments and bones of the elbow joint. On top of that, there is increased stress at the rear of the shoulder when the arm is held straight because it has to do all the work of putting on the brakes.
There is no doubt that the slowing-down phase of the pitching motion is as important as the acceleration phase. In terms of keeping the pitcher healthy, it is more important.
This is a simple thing to catch when watching a pitcher’s mechanics. If the pitcher is complaining of forearm tightness, soreness in the front of the arm (biceps), or soreness in the back of the arm above the elbow (triceps/anconeous), make this simple mechanics check for injury prevention.
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The pitching motion is just one part of pitching.
It is also the only part over which you have control.
Don’t overlook the opportunity to improve that which you can control.