More on the so-called natural softball pitching motion

Had this thought earlier today and just had to share.

Everyone talks about how the softball pitching motion is a “natural” motion. If that was true, parents wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars for their kids to learn how to pitch.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on December 18, 2009, in Pitching. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi Ken, I’m completely in agreement with you on the overuse issue and that all coaches/parents of pitchers should be aware of how much their girls are used and limit them. However, I just can’t agree with the statement in this specific post to use it as justification of what is natural and what is not. Walking and running appear to be natural but people still go through training and lessons to rn faster and be better at it. Parents pay a ton on lessons for overhand pitching instruction as well, and due to pure volume they spend a lot more on overhand pitching lessons. That doesn’t mean that just because more money is spent on overhand pitching it can be used to justify windmill pitching as being more natural either. It isn’t a matter of over vs underhand pitching. If your kid is a serious pitcher then he/she should take lessons from qualified instructors to make sure they use proper technique and motion. Aad overuse is overuse. If you can cause issues by typing too much, then anything can trigger an issue when done too much. I believe the intent behind the statement that windmill pitching is more natural is that at the point of arm related stress during a pitching motion, the underhand motion has the arm in a motion that causes less stress on specific ligaments, tendons and muscles than that of an overhand motion. Not saying that is right, but my belief is that is the assumption. As we walk, our arms sway back and forth in an underhand motion, not over our heads, so I can understand where that interpretation would come from. I haven’t seen stats to support this or refute it, but my guess is that these windmill injuries due to overuse are caused by a more significant overuse than that of overhand pitching. I see windmill pitchers going 3-6 games in 2-3 days regardless of how many pitches they throw and then pitching again 2 days later. This appears true for all age levels whereas in current day, most overhand leagues have restrictions in place by number of pitches, at least for the younger kids. (I would love for you or someone to start a petition to have all softball associations institute pitch count limitations – there would be so many positives behind a move like this). What I am trying to say is that my guess is that it takes more pitches to reach a level of overuse for windmill pitchers than it does for an overhand pitcher. I would love to see stats on this. Also, I don’t hear about all the same injuries with windmill pitching as I do for overhand. I haven’t once heard a statement about elboy injuries with windmill pitchers and that is a serious injury for overhand pitchers. Does anyone know of a windmill pitcher who has needed Tommy-John sugery? Not saying it hasn’t ahppened, but I haven’t heard of it mentioned yet, even in Marc’s post – his post doesn’t even mention it as a possible issue though I again realize it was a summary – but I imagine he would have mentioned it had it been something defined as an issue.

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  2. Mike, my statement about lessons was a joke. Don’t read too much into that — especially as someone who teaches them. Despite the more natural movement of the arms, it seems to me that windmill pitching is tougher to learn than overhand pitching. The baseball instructors I know tend to agree with that. There are similarities between overhand pitching and throwing, while windmill pitching is an animal unto itself. There are also a lot of things that can go wrong. It’s actually a very tough skill to learn.I think one of the concerns around the overuse issue is people confuse “less stressful” with “not stressful.” Game to game, softball pitching takes less out of the arm and shoulder than baseball pitching. But it still puts stress on both. It is a violent series of movement if done properly, and that has to take a toll. Again, I’d say look at injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Those aren’t even that tough usually, but they can cause pain. There have been some studies done on injuries to softball pitchers. The injuries tend to be more in the shoulder than the elbow, although both can occur. Here’s a quick reference to one study: http://www.arthritis-treatment-and-relief.com/fastpitch-softball-shoulder-pain.html. Here’s a more detailed article referring to a study done at Rush Presbyterian earlier this year. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090324171600.htm I think it shows pretty conclusively that there are issues. I know someone at the Univeristy of North Carolina is doing another one, because I was contacted about getting high school age pitchers to study. As a general rule, if a softball pitcher has solid mechanics and pitches a reasonable amount, they should be injury-free. But even with solid mechanics, if they throw to much sooner or later they will get hurt. I don’t think you’ll see any organizations imposing pitch limits until a lot of the old-timers aren’t in charge anymore. Most of them believe the myth.

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  3. Hi Ken, I completely agree – windmill pitching is, while probably less so than over hand pitching, still stressful on the arm and shoulder and is definitely more difficult to learn. The only way to deny that is to not look at your pitcher after she is done for the weekend… and then its simple denial. The one thing I want to know though is how much is too much? That needs to be studied. If someone can start a movement to ban non-wood bats, someone can certainly start a movement to require pitch counts. It is irresponsible for these organizations to let pitchers be overused.

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