Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

As RGIII and Coach Shanahan learned this past weekend, Dr. James Andrews’ advice is not something that you often want to ignore- even in the football world.

andrews told ya so

That being said, for this week’s installment of “Baseball Research Review,” we highlight one of the more poignant baseball research papers by Dr. Andrews’ group, “Risk Factors for Shoulder and Elbow Injuries in Adolescent Baseball Pitchers.” As part of the newly opened MGH Sports Performance Center, I attended a recent Mass General Orthopedics Journal Club where the Orthopedic Surgeons, Residents, Interns, Physical Therapists and a group of related baseball strength and performance specialists reviewed a few of the important articles in the field. This article highlighted the selection as one of those articles with an important message all of those in the baseball field should be readily familiar with to pass on to inquiring athletes, parents and other specialists.

Risk Factors for Shoulder and Elbow Injuries in Adolescent Baseball Pitchers
The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 34, No. 6
Samuel J. Olsen II, MD, Glenn S. Fleisig,* PhD, Shouchen Dun, MS, Jeremy Loftice, and James R. Andrews, MD
From the American Sports Medicine Institute, Birmingham, Alabama

In an attempt to quantify the risk factors associated with an observed 4-fold increase in elbow surgeries performed by Dr. James Andrews from 2000-2004 versus 1994-1999 along with a 6-fold increase for high school pitchers, 90 adolescent pitchers who had elbow or shoulder surgery were surveyed and statistically compared to the results of another 45 adolescent pitchers with no such history of elbow or shoulder surgery. Survey questions included queries about injury history, playing history, preventative measures taken, and competitive habits.

In comparing the non-injured and injured subgroups, the authors found that pitchers who threw more innings, games, and months were more likely to be injured. In fact, they found that those who pitched more than 8 months were 5 times more likely to be injured. Specifically, they found that individuals who pitched greater than 8 months during the year were 5 times more likely to be injured. There was a 4 time greater risk of injury for those pitching more than 80 pitches per game. Pitching despite arm fatigue yielded the greatest increase in injury rate, at a 36 times rate. Not surprisingly, pitching at 85 miles per hour or higher also increased the injury rate 2.58 times.

Authors Conclusions
Taking into account the findings of their study, the authors developed some recommendations when dealing with adolescent pitchers. The main pieces of advice they had were:
1) avoid pitching with arm fatigue
2) avoid pitching with arm pain
3) avoid pitching too much- meaning limit pitching to less than 8 months out of the year, limiting it to less than 80 pitches per game, and limit multiple showcases

The main limitation to this study, as mentioned by the authors, is that the survey relied on the recollection of these adolescent pitchers. The numbers provide a good guide; however, I’m not sure how accurately you can predict based on rememberences from youth pitchers almost a year past. Additionally, there most definitely will be some memory bias for those who are retrospectively asked how much discomfort or pain they may have pitched through, especially if they later underwent surgery. I don’t know about you, but I can barely remember the number of pitches I threw in a given warm up a year ago, let alone trust some of these adolescent pitchers to recall despite worrying about prom dates, drivers license tests, and college applications, just to name a few. Still, the finding provide a framework to further discuss and elucidate risky pitching practices.

Show Me Strength’s Commentary

As coaches ourselves, we often get questions from parents concerned about their child’s participation, or more usually, lack there-of, in showcase type events during the “off-season” months. Parents worry that if their child does not participate in said showcase, then they will be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to college or professional recruiting. What I tell the parents, and Chad would agree, that it is way more important to stay healthy than to head down to a showcase and blow your arm out. Not only is the player not in mid-season shape when they head down to a place where the temptation to try to “light up the gun” is great, but also, they waste precious time for recuperation, recovery, and building a strength foundation for the upcoming full season. If you are good enough to be recruited by a college or drafted, more likely than not the scouts will have plenty of time to find you during your regular high school or summer season. The risk/reward is just too high. As evidenced directly by this research, participation in throwing activities for the whole year puts the athlete at a significantly increased risk of injury.

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never stop learning

These reads of the week come from a selection of the gurus from whom we consider ourselves very lucky to be able to personally learn from. Their continued contributions to their respective areas is no accident and inspirational to us; they continually challenge themselves to learn more and evolve as scientific progress dictates, even though they already practice on the edge of discovery. Please take a minute to catch up on some of their contributions!

1) Developing Young Athletes by Mike Robertson– Once again, Mike frames this tremendous discussion through his life experiences as a young athlete himself, a father to a young daughter, and a strength coach of many young athletes.

Follow Mike on twitter here

2) Shoulder Adaptations Over the Course of a Baseball Season by Chris Beardsley and posted by Mike Reinold– In this detailed research review, Chris thoroughly covers the whole host of issues which manifest in the throwers arm over the course of a season. These are the major reasons why we care so much about proper training and preventative care! Mike, the Boston Red Sox Head Physical Therapist for years, also shares his insights on the review.

You can follow Mike here and Chris here

3) Should Baseball Players Bench Press? by Tony Gentilcore– This is an article we are so thankful was written in such detail! Just this week, I was asked by one of the athletes I coach, why we don’t do bench press for 45 minutes like his football playing high school friends. Well, this post by Tony could not have come at a better time and I know I will be referring people directly to this article often!

You can follow Tony here on twitter

4) Invincible Immunity by Eric Cressey– A post from 2009 that we were recently reminded of and is very fitting considering the high impact that the flu is expected to have this season (as long as the world doesn’t end first!). A well researched and presented reminder of things you can do to get healthy and stay healthy!

You can follow Eric here

Show Me Strength’s Posts of the Week

Check out our posts from this week including the Monday Motivational Reads, a post from Chad about Throwing Progressions from the Ground up and Matt’s surprising review of why you might not want to use a weighted bat in the on-deck circle after all.

Thanks for reading this week!


Babe Ruth often seen swinging 3 of his 36 inch, 40-47 oz bats!

A major event in any youth baseball players career is that moment when he or she takes that first practice swing using a coveted bat weight/donut/or other heavily marketed weighted bat contraption.

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 2.13.31 PM

At that moment, one feels like a Greek god, Hercules on Mt. Scopus, as one joins the ranks of those professional baseball players one places up on that pedestal. If they swing them, and blast mammoth home runs, then I should do the same, right?

Well, contrary to almost universal baseball wisdom, bat weights might not actually carry any weight at all when it comes to preparation, and in fact, you might actually be doing more harm than good!



We want you to be aware of the actual science behind the training to limit those rather unfortunate swings and misses. Below we review two research papers which demonstrates the effect of swinging a bat weight on subsequent swing velocity.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(5): 1566-1569, 2009.
Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Fullerton, California

19 male recreational baseball players, with high school or junior college experience minimum, were asked to complete a general warm up routine and then placed into 3 test conditions: a light bat (LB)  group (33in/ 9.6oz), a normal bat (NB) group (33in/ 31.5 oz) or a heavy bat (HB) group (33in/ 55.2 oz).   Participants were asked to take 5 warm up swings, each of which was recorded for bat velocity, and then following a 30 second break, completed 5 maximal swings with the normal bat.

ResultsScreen Shot 2012-12-21 at 11.01.10 AM
The authors found that warming up with the light bat was significantly faster than that of the normal bat or the heavy bat.  However, they found that when testing the post warm up velocity when participants returned to the normal bat, the light bat warm up group and the normal bat warm up group had statistically significantly higher swing velocity.

Authors Conclusions
The authors conclude that during a warm up in which a player is trying to increase subsequent bat velocity, they should warm up with either a lighter or normal bat.  Using a heavy bat is discouraged because it appears to reduce swing speed upon returning to a normal weighted bat.

This study is limited for one by the fact that only recreational players were used.  A subsequent study of professional caliber hitters should be undertaken.  Also, the study does not account for the phycological or biomechanical advantage that swinging with a heavier bat may subsequently provide to a batter.  It is also possible, and has been seen in other such studies, that the bat speed returns to normal after the first post warm up swing; however, because they averaged the post swing velocities, this is not evident.

Percept Mot Skills. 2002 Feb;94(1):119-26.
Otsuji T, Abe M, Kinoshita H.
Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Japan.

8 varsity university male baseball or softball players participated in this study. In each case, the participant swung an unweighted bat 5 times (control), followed by 5 swings the bat weighted with a 800 gram bat ring weight (weighted condition), and 5 more again without the weight (post-weighted condition).  Participants were given 15 seconds rest between each swing.  They conducted 3 sets of these 15 swings, with a 10 minute rest between sets.

Additionally, after the 5th swing of the weighted condition and the 1st, 3rd, and 5th post-weighted swing the participants were asked to subjectively rate both the heaviness of the bat and the relative speed compared to the control condition.  They rated heaviness on a scale of apparently lighter (5) to apparently heavier (1) and relative speed on a scale of apparently faster (5) to apparently slower (1) with (3) being equal in both cases.

ResultsScreen Shot 2012-12-21 at 11.42.53 AM
The authors found that the average post-weighted swing velocity did not significantly change from the normal control bat swings; however, there was a significant decrease in the swing velocity of the first attempted post-weighted swing.

As far as perception of heaviness and relative speed, the participants felt that the first post-weighted swing, the bat felt both lighter and speed velocity faster than the control condition.

Authors Conclusions
The authors conclude that using a weighted bat does not, contrary to popular belief, elicit an increase in bat speed.  As with the previous study, they conclude that it should not be used to increase bat speed, but may only provide a psychological benefit to the batter.  They postulated about neuromuscular cause of the decreased bat velocity.  They noticed that other studies had demonstrated that using a weighted bat may increase activation of both agonist and antagonist musculature associated with the swing pattern.

There are still limitations to this study as noted by the authors themselves and further study is needed to clarify the neuromuscular mechanisms of bat speed inhibition following a weighted swing.  Additionally, they do not go into the biomechanical changes which may occur along with the weighted bat swing.


OVERALL MESSAGE: Baseball is generally very slow to adapt to research and scientific inquiry.  While more study is necessary, these and other studies seem to conclusively demonstrate that swinging a weighted bat does not increase bat speed, at least immediately following weighted swings.  There still may be beneficial training mechanisms using a weighted bat; however, swinging 6 bats in the on-deck circle will not help you mash Ruthian home runs.  In fact, I’d like to personally slap myself in the face for doing so for some many years of my career.  I am still not fully convinced that there may be some important biomechanical advantages that swinging a bat may provide a batter, but further study is necessary.  Happy smart swinging!