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
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 5,994,263
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 5,013,340
NFL Wide Receiver Randall Cobb Outworks Everyone
Views: 28,365,344

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 69,070
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 9,456
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 133,452
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

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,880
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,300
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,676
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,782
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,561,942

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

How to Train With Running Blisters

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

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

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Megan Rapinoe

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

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

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet