Patient Stories

Well Armed: A Little Leaguer Protects His Future in Baseball

 

Since the age of four, Andrew knew he wanted to play baseball. He started, like most kids, with the local Little League team. By the time he was seven years old, he made the eight-year-old travel team.

In addition to practicing with his dad at home, he played all through the spring, summer, fall, and winter, and by the end of the year he was a very strong pitcher. Concerned his son may over-exert his arm, Andrew’s dad did some research and discovered the Thrower’s Performance Program at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS).

It was in September 2009 when Andrew first met with Mickey Levinson, a Physical Therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and Polly de Mille, an Exercise Physiologist, at the HSS Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center. The Center’s expert team includes physical therapists, certified strength and conditioning specialists, exercise physiologists, and a former professional baseball pitcher, all working together to provide the throwing athlete with a sport specific musculoskeletal and performance assessment. The team’s main goal is to help pitchers of all ages prevent injury while performing at his or her highest possible level.

Mickey explained to Andrew how Little League and adolescent throwers are susceptible to many of the same stresses as adult and pro players. Injuries that occur at a young age can often develop into more serious problems as the player matures. Their program would offer Andrew the tools he needed to change any bad pitching habits, which in turn would prevent and minimize the chance that injuries could occur.

Andrew’s analysis began with a musculoskeletal evaluation followed a comprehensive fitness assessment. The assessment included body composition analysis by skinfold measurement, a functional movement screen, and a variety of measurements of overall fitness and agility such as a vertical jump, push-ups, and timed sprints.

Andrew was then video recorded using the Dartfish© software, a 2-D analysis which breaks down a pitcher’s throwing form in precise checkpoints. Playing back a throw, Mickey noted Andrew’s overall mechanics were excellent for a player his age. However, during his takeaway, it was determined Andrew would generate more power by keeping his hips back longer and not leaning backwards.

Clip of Andrew’s Dartfish© footage from the front

Another tip from the recording involved ball release. Mickey determined that Andrew would benefit from keeping his back foot in contact longer with the ground, which would also allow for more power from his legs. During follow through, he would finish with a flatter back and longer arm path, reducing stress on his throwing arm.

Clip of Andrew’s Dartfish© footage from the back

All of the tests and screenings performed were aimed at evaluating Andrew’s “Performance Pyramid.” Ideally, athletes have a broad base of overall fitness and can move through a full range of movement with body control. On a solid base, the athlete develops the ability to generate power using well-coordinated, efficient linking movements. In Andrew’s case, he scored well on the “power” tests, but still would benefit from continuing to build the base of the pyramid, with some of these gains occurring naturally as he continues to grow in strength.

Lastly, Mickey recommended that Andrew not throw more than nine months per year, as a period of “active rest” is necessary for pitchers of all ages. Breaking balls such as curves and sliders have demonstrated a correlation with shoulder and elbow injuries, so it was important for Andrew to avoid such pitches until he was more skeletally mature.

It’s been a few years since Andrew’s first visit to the Performance Center, and he continues to thrive on the field. His father credits Mickey and the HSS team for their dedication and knowledge, and would recommend the Thrower’s Analysis to any pitcher looking to step up his or her game while reducing the chance of injury. “Everyone there was very nice and professional,” he says. “[The Thrower’s Analysis] made Andrew a better pitcher.”

To schedule an analysis for yourself or your child, contact the Performance Center at 646.797.8005.

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