Daily Archives: April 10, 2009

So, the windmill pitching motion may not be as safe as everyone thought

A couple of people (including Frank Morelli) pointed me toward this article today from the Chicago Tribune. It’s about a recently completed study performed by a researcher at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center that looked at the windmill pitching motion and injuries. The results absolutely contradict the prevailing notion that it’s ok for a 12 year old (or a 21 year old) to throw 80 innings in a weekend because the windmill pitching motion is natural and/or safe.

According to the study, it’s not. Dr. Nikhil Verma studied several pitchers, including some from the NPF’s Chicago Bandits, and concluded that the motion itself, particularly with unlimited repetition, can and does cause injuries. The most common is front shoulder pain driven by problems with the biceps tendon.

The article does a great job of explaining the study and what it found. I won’t rehash that here. But what I will say is that it’s no surprise. As I’ve said before, any repetitive motion is bound to cause wear and tear on the parts being used. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be any Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. But that’s pretty common in office workers using a computer mouse. So it stands to reason that a violent, ballistic movement like windmill pitching would also cause damage and pain if repeated over and over. You’d have to be in total denial not to think so.

Every parent of a fastpitch pitcher should reach this article, print out a copy, and keep it handy on tournament weekends. Trophies are nice and all, but they’re not worth ruining a player’s career for, or leaving her with shoulder pain the rest of her life. I don’t care how good a shape you are in, or how gifted you are with good DNA. Repeating the same movements over and over and over, especially over a short period of time, is neither healthy nor smart. If you’re the parent of a 10U or 12U player especially, and your daughter’s coach wants to pitch her four or five games every weekend because “the team needs her” or “she’s our best chance to win,” you may want to rethink your team options.

Although the doctor believes it’s the motion itself that is the issue, I’m not so sure about that. A poor motion, yes. A pitcher who is trying for another two miles an hour by putting her body into an awkward position to get a little extra whip, yes. But a pitcher with good mechanics shouldn’t be in danger unless she simply repeats the motion so much she wears out the body parts involved.

Be smart. And remember: if your daughter pitches her team to glory at the expense of her shoulder this year, the coach will probably just go out and find some other kid to take her place next year. It happens.

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