The best way to assess your pitcher’s mechanics is to get side view and back view videotape of the athlete. Many studies have been done on baseball pitching mechanics and hundreds of mechanical variables have been explored, but trying to correct too many points at once creates too much confusion in the athlete. Texas Metroplex Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Center for Sport and Motion Analysis suggests three basic points to assess as you watch videotape of a pitcher:
- From the side view of the pitcher, make sure that as the ball leaves the glove, the pitcher’s hand stays on top of the ball (palm down). A pitcher who turns his palm up will place excessive stress on his elbow and shoulder.
- From the front view, the stride foot (lead leg) should touch down at a 450 angle to the direction of the pitch (i.e. halfway between open and closed position, or toeing in). The tendency for young pitchers is to step with the stride foot too open (toe pointing toward home plate) which often leads to the hips opening up too soon, which in turn causes the arm to lag behind the body and places excessive stress on the shoulder and elbow.
- From the back view, look at the position of the arm when the stride foot first hits the ground. The elbow and hand of the pitching arm should not be behind the body when the stride foot first touches down. Keeping the elbow and hand in line with — or in front of — the body will reduce arm stress and improve velocity. Remember that after stride foot contact, the rest of the delivery happens in less than half a second. Wasted arm motion behind the body is not efficient.
If your pitcher is doing the above three things well, then he is on his way to safe and efficient mechanics.
Keith Meister, MD is Director of Texas Metroplex Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics (TMI), Arlington, TX and Head Team Physician, Texas Rangers. For more information and TMI programs, go to http://www.tmisportsmed.com