Private Baseball Lessons in St. Louis - Rick Strickland Baseball

Most humans don’t usually think of their arms when considering the most fragile, vulnerable parts of their body, but a certain subset of people definitely do.

Since so many of them endure painful injuries simply from throwing a baseball, pitchers are acutely aware of just how delicate their shoulders, elbows, biceps, and triceps really are. The damage can be anything from soreness and weakness to tendinitis and torn ligaments, and they are almost always associated with improper mechanics and overuse.

Which in a way is a good thing: the problems have been diagnosed, the battle has been half won. The hard part is ensuring that today’s young pitchers -- and professional pitchers too, for that matter -- get proper instruction and enough rest to avoid the cruel fate of an injured arm.

The problem
For so many years, pitching coaches were more focused on what not to do as a pitcher than on training techniques that taught proper mechanics. It was in many ways a reactive, rather than proactive, approach.

Most importantly, it failed to truly identify what was causing so many young pitchers to injure their elbows and shoulders, and instead focused on treating the symptoms. But what young pitchers really need are instructors who actually instruct.

The days of learning from pitching coaches who have earned their titles simply by virtue of having been pitchers themselves need to be left behind, especially given the amount of science and technology at our disposal -- and especially if we want to improve upon statistics like this one from the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI):

Pitchers who threw more than 100 innings in a calendar year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured seriously enough as to require elbow or shoulder surgery.

The correct way to pitch
That little tidbit from the ASMI would seem to have more to do with faulty mechanics -- or at least the combination of faulty mechanics and overuse -- than it would with overuse alone. After all, 100 innings in a year isn’t crazy: Last season, Washington’s Max Scherzer threw 228 innings, and that was over a span of just six months.

Of course, he’s a grown man and a professional, so we aren’t suggesting your 14 year-old should go out and throw a hundred pitches every fifth day. But for youngsters who are throwing regularly in competitive situations, it’s all the more reason to make sure he’s pitching correctly.

Well-oriented pitching instructors should instill discipline in five areas of biomechanics that influence pitching motion, and in turn, influence injury potential:

1.)Stride-leg Lift - The stride leg should be lifted to around 90 degrees and there should be a fluid motion through release.

2.)Elbow Positioning - As a pitcher’s body starts moving toward the plate, and as the arm passes the side of the body, the elbow should be 90 degrees to the torso.

3.)Follow-through - The right-hand pitcher’s throwing-hand thumb should NEVER be pointing toward home after release. It should always end up to the left of the left knee.

4.)Timing - When a pitcher’s arms separate, they should move in opposite directions simultaneously to right angles with the torso.

5.)Power - A pitcher’s power should come from when the stride foot lands on the mound’s downslope, not during the windup.

The right number of pitches
These brief summaries merely scratch the surface of what it means to pitch with proper mechanics, but it gives you an idea of what should be happening with arm positioning and balance.

When it comes to how many pitches youths should be throwing, however, things aren’t quite as clear. But the statistics we do know are startling: It’s estimated that athletes who returned to the mound with tired arms were six times more likely to suffer from elbow discomfort and four times more likely to endure shoulder pain than their well-rested counterparts.

So how many pitches make one’s arm tired? How much rest is needed between outings? Both are hard to answer since not only are mechanics and stamina involved, but so too are physical fitness, arm strength, flexibility, and outside factors such as air temperature -- all of which are subjective and/or subject to changes.

The RSB method
Rick Strickland Baseball’s comprehensive pitchers’ program is a surefire way to learn how to perfect different pitches, improve control, fine-tune defensive skills, and hone the techniques that separate the good pitchers from the great ones.

But in order to sustain high velocity on fastballs, throw pitches that move, and field the center of the diamond well, pitchers need to be healthy. With muscle strains, meniscus tears, tendinitis, ligament damage, and the dreaded “dead arm” -- all of which affect young pitchers today -- none of it’s possible.

We’ll coach you on not only how to become an elite pitcher, but how to do so in the healthiest way possible: with optimized biomechanics, an understanding of what your pitch limits should be, and the knowledge that taking the proper amount of rest is crucial.

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