I hate seeing young athletes hurt. There may not be a worse feeling than telling a young, energetic, baseball loving athlete they need stop playing for a while so we can get them through an injury. Now, I appreciate there are some injuries that are completely unavoidable and these injuries are the nature of playing sports.
On the other hand, some of the injuries I see in the clinic have the potential to be avoided with a little extra knowledge and a keen eye.
In this post I will cover some of the common mistakes to look for in your young throwers. I will also share how these mistakes can lead to less than optimal performance and how they create the potential for injury.
Mistake #1 – Getting out of the glove late
This error is one that can have a detrimental effect on the rest of the throwing cycle because if the hand break is delayed it forces the thrower to have to catch up in the sequence of the throwing motion. As the pitcher begins to come out of his balance position and his front knee begins to lower, his hands should begin to separate from the glove. In doing so, he will not be rushed to get the arm into the proper position or slot when he starts delivering the ball.
Mistake #2 – Faulty arm path
We were all taught as kids when you bring the ball out of the glove the arm should follow a “C” path or “down, back, and up”. The reason we were taught this was because it gets the arm in the right position for effective delivery. The common faulty arm path I see is the ball coming down and behind the pitcher after it exits the glove. Now the pitcher has to hurry up to get his arm in the proper position for delivery. If his timing is not just right, it leads to the next mistake.
Mistake #3 – Lagging coming through the slot
Once a thrower starts turning his chest toward the target, the throwing arm should be in sync with the torso, or in other words, they should move together at the same time. Have you ever seen a young pitcher make a throw and it looked like his hand was still pointing at the short stop when his chest was facing the catcher? That is lagging. The arm is trailing behind the body’s movement toward the plate. In my opinion, this mistake is the NUMBER #1 cause of shoulder and elbow injuries in young throwers.
Mistake #4 – Glove side arm flying open
Right up there with “down, back, and up”, “tuck your front side elbow” was probably the next thing I remember all my coaches preaching – and rightfully so. When a thrower is delivering the ball to the catcher, all his momentum should be driven forward toward the catcher. If the front side arm is away from the body, it creates a spinning effect drifting the pitcher off to the side and not toward the catcher.
This error has two consequences. First, the pitcher has a harder time locating his pitches because it is hard to time a spinning motion. Second, now the pitcher lands unbalanced and often is not ready to field a ball or protect himself if the ball is hit back toward him.
Mistake #5 – Breaking lead leg
Now this one sounds bad. I do not mean the pitcher actually “breaks” his lead leg. I mean the pitcher is applying the brakes through his lead leg. When a pitcher is delivering a ball, his momentum shifts his weight from his back leg to his lead leg. When this happens the lead leg’s knee is supposed to be athletically bent. Breaking the lead leg is when the pitcher rapidly and often violently snaps his knee straight as he is shifting weight onto it. This error stops all forward momentum and energy thus forcing the arm to make up the difference in order to attain to the desired velocity. This mistake is the NUMBER #2 cause of shoulder and elbow injuries I see.
Coaches have an incredibly tough job when it comes to developing young pitchers. I have discovered in my time of working with young baseball players there are a lot of kids ‘throwing’ off the mound and very few ‘pitching’ off the mound. Having a keen eye and keeping these mistakes in mind will help your young pitcher stay healthy and develop a great foundation for pitching!
Written By: Travis Manners, PT, SCS, CSCS
Question: How are your young thrower’s mechanics? Have you noticed any other common mistakes? You can leave a comment below.