Pitching without engaging the rotator cuff???

My 9th grader has just started going to a sports strength training facility.  It's not just a work out place, they have staff who evaluate the athletes and form a plan based on any problem areas in the overall body of the athlete and cross check that with specific injuries common in the athletes sport.

I wasn't there last night but my son said he was doing an exercise and his trainer came over and stopped him to say he wasn't engaging his rotator cuff. The trainer made a few adjustments and they spoke about how when he pitches he is also not engaging his rotator cuff. The trainer said this is a common problem that needed to be addressed now with some more specific exercises to strengthen that area and get his rotator cuff to engage. He also said that while he is pitching 80 it isn't a huge issue but if and when he gets to the high 80's it can be a serious problem.

Not to be all 1st grade here with "the arm bone's connected to the shoulder bone"...but how do you pitch WITHOUT engaging the rotator cuff...or was he perhaps over simplifying? Anyone else heard of this?

Original Post

That's a new one for me.  I get wanting to strengthen the area - it helps prevent injury.  To say he isn't engaging it though is a weird way to phrase the issue.

I mean - without the rotator cuff your arm would go flying off when you pitch, so I'm pretty sure that would count as engaged...

He probably just means something else. It's easy to get terminology confused. More important would be to evaluate what he demonstrated.  Any time someone wants to discuss a movement/mechanics with me I always say show me, don't tell me.  That way I know we are speaking the same language.

The short answer is "You Don't."  Now, your son may, or may not, have some rotator cuff weakness that shows up in his throwing.  When a muscle(s) is weak, others tend to try to compensate.  Maybe that's what the guy means.  But, telling a kid that he's "not engaging his rotator cuff" sounds like a guy who likes to hear his own voice.  

Could he be trying to say that your son is short-arming the ball?  My kid has a shoulder issue and does this deliberately, throwing all elbow and wrist. It works ok for an IF but would not be a good way to pitch. 

So this relates to a problem I was going to post about anyway. For the last two years our coach has brought in a training company that does a video analysis of pitchers and talks to them about any weaknesses or concerns they see in the pitching motion. They give the video to the kid.

Last night my son texted me "mom, I'm stressed." Apparently, the trainer, who is NOT a baseball coach, but a trainer, told him that the way he throws could eventually cause injury. Son was FREAKED OUT. He just hit 90 in his last radar gunned bullpen, has felt like his mechanics were better than ever, and two hours later he's convinced he's at risk of ripping his arm up.

A couple of issues: 1--his pitching coach died about two years ago, and he hasn't found someone he really trusts to talk to about things like this; 2--no coach from his school, his travel team or the many many colleges he's showcased at have mentioned this; and 3--the guy is a trainer, not a baseball person. I respect his knowledge of the body, but is this who we should listen to about this?

So how worried should we be? My own take is that pitching is inherently a pretty unnatural thing to begin with, but if there was real cause for concern, someone who sees him play day in and day out would have said something.

Any advice??

Iowamom, sorry to hear about your son's PC.

There is certainly some truth to your take - pitching can break down arms, particularly those with bad mechanics and/or throw very hard.  But, given the context (training company does video analysis of pitchers), I would certainly follow up.  Get as much detail as you can from that trainer as to what the specific problem is.  What motion does he consider risky and what adjustment is he recommending.  Do research.  Introduce the information to those who are currently working with your son and his pitching and/or throwing motion.  I suspect that if you bounce this off enough good baseball people, your son will either make a healthy adjustment or come to peace with his current mechanics.  It would be best to bring this up with people who your son is working with in person but it wouldn't hurt to include this HSBBW group with the details.  Lots of pitching and trainer types here.

CaCO3Girl posted:

Sounds like my 9th grader got something confused in the translation.  Guess I will actually have to go to the next one.

If he did, and I'm not sure he did, it's because the coach/trainer did a poor job of explaining what he's talking about.  

Baseball training is a minefield.  Everybody wants to make a living off of baseball.  There are some good people out there.  But, there are just as many who know just enough to be dangerous.  

Iowamom23 posted:

 

Any advice??

Well, in all honesty the way anybody throws could lead to injury.  You can probably point to just about any pitcher and come up with something that could lead to injury.  He needs to take the specific recommendations from the trainer and run them by some other knowledgeable people and get their opinions.

I can guarantee you there is a guy out there with your son's mechanics who has never had an issue - and I can guarantee you there is a guy with the exact mechanics who has blown up his arm. There are a lot of factors at play. 

Iowamom23 posted:

So this relates to a problem I was going to post about anyway. For the last two years our coach has brought in a training company that does a video analysis of pitchers and talks to them about any weaknesses or concerns they see in the pitching motion. They give the video to the kid.

Last night my son texted me "mom, I'm stressed." Apparently, the trainer, who is NOT a baseball coach, but a trainer, told him that the way he throws could eventually cause injury. Son was FREAKED OUT. He just hit 90 in his last radar gunned bullpen, has felt like his mechanics were better than ever, and two hours later he's convinced he's at risk of ripping his arm up.

A couple of issues: 1--his pitching coach died about two years ago, and he hasn't found someone he really trusts to talk to about things like this; 2--no coach from his school, his travel team or the many many colleges he's showcased at have mentioned this; and 3--the guy is a trainer, not a baseball person. I respect his knowledge of the body, but is this who we should listen to about this?

So how worried should we be? My own take is that pitching is inherently a pretty unnatural thing to begin with, but if there was real cause for concern, someone who sees him play day in and day out would have said something.

Any advice??

Just going out on a limb here BUT wouldn't it be true that MOST people who gain enough momentum to throw 90 would cause almost immediate injury?  I mean the player has to have a special genetically freaky arm to get there anyway right? These trainers are trained for the average human body...the freaks who are throwing 90 don't have an average human body.

I can tell you without a doubt that it would be impossible for a baseball player to throw a ball without the rotator cuff (actually 4 muscles) engaged. This trainer either has no idea what he is talking about or doing a very bad job of explaining the issue so that your son can understand. I would hope that he was trying to say that your son has shoulder laxity/instability. There is obviously a ton of stress put on the shoulder when throwing. If there is a weakness in the rotator cuff, there is going to be less stabilization of shoulder socket....leading to potential injury. This is obviously very simplified way to explain but highly recommend reading anything by Cressey & Reinold. I also like the recommendation JCG.

CaCO3Girl, it's very common for kids your son's age to focus on strength instead of proper technique when exercising. That might be what the trainer saw. For example, if he was doing external rotation exercises he may have been lifting his elbow away from his side, which activates the deltoid muscle instead of isolating the posterior rotator cuff muscles. It's a natural inclination since that gives you more power. Shoulders rounded forward is another thing that lengthens and weakens the posterior rotator cuff muscles. I agree with you that you should check this out for yourself, and make sure that your son understands the guidance. (And make sure that you agree with it).

MTH posted:
CaCO3Girl posted:

Sounds like my 9th grader got something confused in the translation.  Guess I will actually have to go to the next one.

If he did, and I'm not sure he did, it's because the coach/trainer did a poor job of explaining what he's talking about.  

Baseball training is a minefield.  Everybody wants to make a living off of baseball.  There are some good people out there.  But, there are just as many who know just enough to be dangerous.  

I agree with the above, too many out there trying to teach stuff who have no clue on how to relate to young pitchers and hitters.  

Maybe what he has explained is that he isnt flexible enough and has to do the excercises properly to get the flexibility he needs to engage the process successfully.

If one isnt flexible enough, you won't be able to produce the velocity needed.

TPM posted:

Maybe what he has explained is that he isnt flexible enough and has to do the excercises properly to get the flexibility he needs to engage the process successfully.

If one isnt flexible enough, you won't be able to produce the velocity needed.

That makes sense and sounds like how my kid would have misinterpreted it.

CaCO3Girl posted:
TPM posted:

Maybe what he has explained is that he isnt flexible enough and has to do the excercises properly to get the flexibility he needs to engage the process successfully.

If one isnt flexible enough, you won't be able to produce the velocity needed.

That makes sense and sounds like how my kid would have misinterpreted it.

Make sure that you are using your dollars wisely. I am not sure that 12-14 year olds actually understand the entire process, and I do believe that is why most young baseball players don't succeed.

A qualified pitching coach should be able to use his knowledge to diagnose the issues and help create proper mechanics, THEN, the trainer helps to develop a strength training program to create positive results, kind of goes hand in hand.

JMO

TPM posted:
CaCO3Girl posted:
TPM posted:

Maybe what he has explained is that he isnt flexible enough and has to do the excercises properly to get the flexibility he needs to engage the process successfully.

If one isnt flexible enough, you won't be able to produce the velocity needed.

That makes sense and sounds like how my kid would have misinterpreted it.

Make sure that you are using your dollars wisely. I am not sure that 12-14 year olds actually understand the entire process, and I do believe that is why most young baseball players don't succeed.

A qualified pitching coach should be able to use his knowledge to diagnose the issues and help create proper mechanics, THEN, the trainer helps to develop a strength training program to create positive results, kind of goes hand in hand.

JMO

I didn't actually send him just for pitching, my major concern were his knees and hips...this just happened to come up in the process as a weak area as well.

TPM posted:

Maybe what he has explained is that he isnt flexible enough and has to do the excercises properly to get the flexibility he needs to engage the process successfully.

If one isnt flexible enough, you won't be able to produce the velocity needed.

Just adding to TPM

 

Mobility is the word I would use and  functional strength to go along with the movement.  I too am a fan of Cressey & Reinhold and recently found Nunzio Signore via ABCA podcast (former Cressey Intern).  IMO, a good trainer that focuses on strength and movement is what you're looking for. A good understanding of baseball  and the athleticism needed to play the sport is a must.

Most  youth pitchers/players have muscular imbalances that also impede their ability to move efficiently. GIRD is just another example of ROM in the arm, how it can be measured and trained for performance and safety of the athlete.

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