Things To Know Before Starting
When asking around the baseball community it has become accepted that pitchers face a high probability of being injured. When throwing, a pitcher will require a lot from the arm due to its high velocity, extreme range of motion, and the repetitive nature of the throw. When seeking confirmation of this trend, research has routinely shown substantial injury rates within the game over the last 20 years.
Michael Ciccotti reported via The American Sports Medicine Journal that between the years 2011 - 2014 there were 3185 reported elbow injuries... of the 3185 elbow injuries reported 650 of these injuries required surgery in professional baseball.
Stan Conte points out that from 1998 to 2015 there were 8357 placements of players on the DL in the MLB. Of those placements shoulder injuries were 20.6% and elbow made up 19.6%. This means arm injuries in baseball made up a total of 41% of the all injuries.
An epidemiological study called “Prevalence and Patterns of Shoulder Injuries in Major League Baseball” found that of 3090 injuries recorded 511 were shoulder injuries making the shoulder “the most vulnerable anatomic location in baseball”. The study states that the average time spent on the DL was “69 days“.
In an article titled "Shoulder MRI Abnormalities in Asymptomatic Little League Baseball Players" it was pointed out that approximately 20% of baseball players between the ages of 8 and 12 years will experience arm pain during a single youth baseball season. This is particularly concerning given that this injury rate has increased over the past 2 decades.
Dr. James Andrews was quoted saying, “I started seeing a sharp increase in youth sports injuries particularly in baseball around (the year) 2000”. Dr. Andrew’s quote is supported by the data from ASMI (The American Sports Medicine Institute). Looking at the data from ASMI, we see a sharp and continued increase in injuries at both the youth and high school levels.
Another article called “Shoulder Pain in The Overhead Throwing Athlete” states that only “8% of professional pitchers with repaired full thickness tears have returned to the same level of competition”. This is an alarming indication that when pitchers hurt the shoulder specifically, the return to a higher level of competition is very difficult.
The research is undeniable. There is a problem in the game and the next generation faces a difficult path as the athletic requirements of today's game continue to push the boundaries of human ability in the sport.
To overcome this we have to change the way we think about injuries as a whole. This starts with redefining what causes injuries and taking a deeper look at how we can quantify an athletes ability to be injury resilient.
As a response to the ever growing issues surrounding arm injuries in baseball we launched a philosophy called "T3". By its design "T3" is a triangular approach that formulates a hierarchy of the categories that make up an arm injury.
In 2018 when we launched the philosophy our goal was to help redefine how we view injuries. Often times we look at only one of these categories but reality is none these categories exist exclusively. Each of these categories tells a story and plays a critical role in aiding arm health.
The categories of "T3 are…
Let's break each of these categories down further to provide a little working context around how we define them...
Mechanics traditionally have been taught from oral tradition within the coaching community of baseball. When we talk about mechanics in the T3 Philosophy we are talking about understanding the sequence of specified movements determined by research from the biomechanics community.
Subjectively, we as coaches are not good enough to determine specific stresses by the naked eye. The utilization of research is paramount in the furthering of our athletes from the mechanics category. Research to date only offers weak correlations between mechanics and specific injuries. Due to the low correlations in research between specific injury and mechanics we place the mechanics category as the bottom of our triangular approach. This is not to downplay its importance. Rather, it is to recognize in our hierarchy the boxes we need to check off before attempting to tie mechanics to specific injury.
When we look at the strength category we have to first consider why strength is important to injury prevention. Strength is injury resilience. With higher strength levels the body has a greater ability to adapt to and absorb external forces applied to the arm during throwing. When looking at overall strength development, Lauernsen et al. states “increasing strength training volume and intensity were associated with sports injury risk reduction”. This supports the idea that being stronger helps reduce the chance of injury.
During throwing specifically the body experiences multiple changes in exertion throughout the span of a practice or game. As the body tires our motor neurons don’t fire as efficiently leaving recruited muscles unable to disperse applied force to the arm. Due to these muscles’ inability to efficiently disperse force we can receive higher stress levels more directly upon areas such as the UCL or Rotator Cuff. Strength helps us to counter this force for a longer period of time and protect the body through these higher stress periods.
Strength plays an important role in reducing injury, but with the ability to quantify and control daily incurred load, our level of strength will play less a role. Strength is our second most valued category within our triangular philosophy “T3”.
Workload Management plays the most important role in mitigating injury risk. Some athletes may have elite level Mechanics and Strength but if Workload goes ignored these athletes still place themselves at a much higher risk of injury.
Workload Management is simply "managing" fatigue. If an athlete places themselves under a higher level of fatigue we know the body has less of an ability to withstand or protect from the load received during elevated exertion. Ultimately, if an athlete continues in time under higher levels of fatigue, the body breaks down and it leads to injury. Our ability to quantify our exertion daily with "Workload Management" allows us a unique ability to mitigate injury risk and compete at our highest level by managing fatigue. Many in todays game know workload management as simply throwing workload. To be clear on this category we are saying all things that could potentially lead to fatigue need to be managed not just throwing though throwing plays a sizable role.
In closing, we have to understand that in order to give ourselves the highest chance to stay healthy we must first keep our priorities in line.
Workload, Strength then Mechanics should be the continued focus in order for all athletes to stay ahead and healthy in their development.
“In 2007, I was rehabbing a partially torn UCL as a sophomore in high school. At the time, Jamie Moyer was also rehabbing at the same facility. In a brief discussion, he asked me how much time I took off from playing during the course of a year. As our discussion continued, he said something I would never forget. He said “the pros take up to 5 months off so why don’t you?”. In my mind it wasn’t that I didn’t agree with him, I just never thought about it and didn’t know why taking that time off was even important. All I knew was I was doing what everyone told me would get me “seen” and I was excelling, despite a few seemingly minor injuries."
-Casey Mulholland (KineticPro Lead Developer)
In reference to complaining, the author Eckhart Tolle states you must “leave the (a) situation or accept it, all else is madness.” In baseball today, it is widely acknowledged that in the lower levels of the game, athletes are over-played in a demanding year-round schedule. It is also widely proven that injury rates have sky rocketed in the last 10 years. There are plenty of us who stand in the baseball community widely criticizing and often complaining about these issues of overuse and arm injury. In reference to Tolle’s perspective on the act of complaining, it is necessary we stop the madness and begin to change how we approach the situation. The safety of the athlete in the game today depends on us not accepting its current state.
Everything from travel organizations at the youth level to a misleading understanding of the recruiting process, can increase the overuse of players year after year. Looking at opportunities for a career of any length, high school level and beyond, it is imperative to remember that as skill level increases so too does opportunity of places to play.
Why Off Season?
The argument “the pros do it that way, so you should too” is often an anecdotal inaccuracy. But in the case of offseason length, compared to other levels of the game, it is safe to say the professional level has the right idea. Professional players receive approximately 42% (5 months) of the year as an allotted offseason. When looking at other levels, such as year-round play in high school, we see about 25% of the year allotted to an offseason. To make matters worse, pros will typically have their 42% of the year as consecutive months, where high school players will typically only see 1 month off between the transition of seasons.
The youth level is guilty of nearly the same schedule as the high school level, but the difference is the majority of games at the youth level are played in a tournament format. In a tournament format, the players may play as many as 4-7 games in a three to four-day period, where the youth athlete will typically see a higher total number of innings in a shorter time period. The question that needs to be asked is, if professional players (fully grown men) are taking 42% of the year to develop and hone their skills and physicality, why don’t younger athletes follow suit? One-month periods of off-time are not long enough to adequately rest and prepare for another season of play. However, we see this repeated every year at the lower levels of the game. In one month increments, the athlete cannot administer a proper “Rest Period”, rebuild adequate fitness in preparation of season and or spend any quality amount of time developing skills and strength.
Breaking Down The Needed Phases Of An Offseason
2. “On Ramp” (Month 1-2)
The “On Ramp” phase is single handedly the most over looked phase of any level today. During a proper “On Ramp” the athlete is effectively increasing workload by starting at light intensity throwing and progressing through appropriate progression rates. When looking at injury rates in accordance to the time of year, we typically see that throwers will have the highest spikes in injury shortly after the beginning of season. This has been linked to improper preparation, meaning spikes of workload, early in their offseason. This phase should vary dependent on age and seasonal requirements. This is a period of time we will generally work from lower intensity to higher intensity.
3. “Skill Specific Training” (Month’s 3+)
Once through an “On Ramp,” it is time for the player to focus on specific skill needs. This is a period of time that can be filled with focus on things such as velocity, command, pitch design, etc. Implementation of these phases should be based around the athletes needs to continue to become a more skilled pitcher. Competitive stress is removed and the ability for the athlete to experiment with trial and error methods are encouraged. In an in-season environment, athletes must perform.
Experimentation during the season is risky and leaves the athlete in a space where he can quickly reject anything that does not offer immediate success. This time-period in the offseason allows the athlete to develop through experimentation and more effectively understand why things work or do not work for him. This time is necessary for those athletes who seek to increase their overall skill to reach the next level. When done properly, athletes can see substantial gains.
Now that we have an idea of how an offseason should break down to be effective, let’s begin to look at how we can schedule our year to incorporate this needed period of training. As noted above, a real offseason is at minimum 3 months long. To best explain our recommendation of when to implement an offseason, we have compiled a chart to show the optimal offseason periods at each level…
The above chart illustrates recommended seasons based on an average seasonal length and time frames. Looking at this you may be realizing that we are recommending an offseason that may directly conflict some very popular times of year to play. For example, Little League All- Stars and travel baseball will often span the summertime in which we recommend the youth player takes as an offseason.
High school athletes now get quality exposure in the summer through major events and camps. We recommend high school athletes take the fall to train away from the optional high school fall season instead of taking the summer off. Though we recommend taking the fall off from playing baseball, it is important to understand that taking the fall or summer as an offseason can be conducive to the growth of high school athletes.
College players will oftentimes be asked to play in summer leagues. We recommend that college players take this 3 month period to train in an offseason.
Why Kinnect EDU?
For more on our goals read below!
As performance standards have increased over the last 20 years across the game of baseball so to has the rate of injury. Arm injury rates in the MLB seem to be sustaining an elevated level but it is clear that arm injury rates at the amateur level are escalating higher than ever before.
As this shift has occurred many have sought answers to how to develop velocity while maintaining arm health. Program after program during this period of time have offered "absolute" solutions to both. The only problem is... those promising "absolutes" have lied.
The truth is in the last 5 years the industry has been able to look deeper into performance due to advancements in technology. However we still do not have the answers to preventing arm injuries or assuring velocity increases.
KineticPro was founded with the goal of bringing innovative systems to the game while offering transparency in the methods surrounding those systems. We have goals of one day being the group that helps usher in a new era of healthy arms in the game of baseball.
If you have become interested in KineticPro or our course while search of "The Solution" we can go ahead and tell you that you won't find a magic fix here. What you will find though is an evolving company that is objective and transparent in its pursuit to build the best player development system in the game.
With that being said the question might still stand... What are the goals of KP? To answer it simply, our goals are to fundamentally change the future of baseball.