Baseball Injury Prevention: The Strasburg Limit Is Not the Only Way

September 5, 2012 | Mo Skelton

Must See Baseball Videos

Stephen Strasburg burst onto the MLB scene and dominated batters with his 100+ mph fastball. Unfortunately, it quickly led to Tommy John surgery. Two years after the surgery, his general manager has limited him to 160 innings during the 2012 season to avoid re-injury. Is limiting total innings to prevent injury the best option for Strasburg and other pitchers, or are there other factors involved? Read on to find out.

The Art of Pitching

Pitching is a craft (Check out STACK's Guide to Pitching to hone your craft). Like any artist, a pitcher develops his skills over time and after many failed attempts to achieve perfection. The goal is to be able to repeat the same motion over and over, which increases pitching speed and accuracy. However, if you do anything over and over again, hundreds or thousands of times, your body begins to wear down.

Pitchers who throw the hardest have the most mobility. The upper arm bone rotates in the shoulder joint at an extremely high velocity. Small muscles around the shoulder blade and connected to the arm work together to slow the arm down, to keep it from flying forward and following the ball when it is released. The repetitive extreme forces and stress begin to add up and can lead to an injury of either the shoulder or the elbow.

How Pitchers Get Hurt

  • A recent study found that simply throwing harder correlates to greater risk of injury (Olsen, Fleisig, et al.)
  • Pitchers now throw for more than six months of the year during their primary season and summer ball, limiting time for post-season recovery
  • Pitchers often perform in pain and mask it by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine, like ibuprofen.
  • Several studies indicate that even some MLB pitchers have a weak supraspinatus (one of four rotator cuff muscles) on their throwing arm. Lack of strength in this eternal rotator, combined with high strength on the internal rotators (lats, pecs and subscapularis), puts a pitcher at a high risk of injury (Magnusson, Mullaney and Bryam, et al.).

Strasburg's Inning Limit

On The Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio, renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews recently talked about exercising caution with a player within two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery. During this timeframe, a player has the greatest chance of reinjury. In the same interview Dr. Andrews noted that it was impossible to know whether the inning limit set for Strasburg will be sufficient to prevent reinjury over the course of his career.

One downside of Strasburg's 160-inning limit is that not all innings are created equal. An inning is always three outs, but it can involve anywhere from three pitches to more than 40; and the amount of rest between innings can range from five minutes to more than 20 minutes. So, an inning limit does not effectively determine whether a pitcher has been throwing too much. It is more appropriate to limit the number of pitches.

Best Strategies for Preventing Injury

  • Avoid jogging in season as this has proven to cause a drop in power (Rhea et al.)
  • Sprint in season to maintain power and mobility in the hips
  • Maintain elbow extension and shoulder internal rotation mobility by stretching rotator cuff and elbow muscles after each outing
  • Avoid stretching the shoulder in external rotation. This is naturally increased by throwing, and too much of it can lead to injury
  • Focus on long tossing in-season to maintain arm strength
  • Stretch the hips after each outing to maintain mobility (Ellenbacker et al.)
  • Do not throw if you are in pain
Check out STACK's Sport Injury guide for more tips on avoiding and recovering from injury.

Photo: mlbfanpost.com

Topics: BASEBALL | NEWS | PITCHER
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Must See
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,799,501
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 8,130,500
Dwyane Wade Leads by Example Dwyane Wade Leads by Example
Views: 8,055,199

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,018,397
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 16,121
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,968
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,798
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,533
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,577,381
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,222
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,214

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Introduction If you have clocked enough hours under the bar, you know that lower back injuries can be a frustrating and derailing part of the strength...

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Megan Rapinoes Secret to Staying Healthy

Megan Rapinoe

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

How to Train With Running Blisters

How to Train With Running Blisters

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

YardBarker